Plans for skateparks in Seattle keep rolling along
By Teo Jion Chun
photo/ Teo Jion Chun
¦ The Jefferson Skatepark not only offers challenging transition courses, but also scenic views of Seattle city landscape.
photo/ Teo Jion Chun
¦ Logan Devlin attempts a challenging “kickfl ip” at the Jefferson Skatepark.

Demand for skateparks is growing in Seattle, and more facilities are going in to cater to the increasing number of skateboarders. According to the city’s 2006 Skatepark Plan, Seattle has more than 20,000 skateboarders, and by the year 2020, there will be upwards of 24,000 based on population projections.

The Jefferson Park Skatepark, which opened in January, is the newest of the network of skateparks managed by Seattle Parks and Recreation. The 18,000-square-foot park is located just behind the Jefferson Park Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S.

The Parks and Green Spaces Levy funded its planning, design and construction with a budget of $1 million, and SubPop Records provided an additional $10,000.

“We have heard a lot of positive feedback [about Jefferson Skatepark],” said Parks project planner Susanne Rockwell. “During the design process for Jefferson, we asked our designers to consider all the features available in existing Seattle skateparks and to design this park to be complementary.”

The new park features the deepest bowl in Seattle to date, with shallower bowls alongside, a hexagonal elevated dish, some street features and lighting. In 2007, Jefferson Park was identified as a good location for a “district-sized” park, usually ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet.

Seattle’s skatepark network offers a variety of features, including integrated skate-able terrain, also called “skatedots”; smaller neighborhood skatespots; medium-sized “district” skateparks; and large, regional facilities.

According to Seattle Parks and Recreation’s website, there are currently five completed skateparks, including Jefferson, plus one skatedot and five ongoing skatepark projects slated to be completed by next year.

There are several baseline criteria that apply to all types of skatepark facilities. “One of the major criteria for siting a facility is that it needs to be visible,” Rockwell said. This means close proximity to public transit with good foot and vehicular access.

Other criteria include limiting off-site impacts like noise and lighting to residential communities. Skateparks are usually part of a larger park space that provides other amenities.

Rockwell added, “We experience skaters jumping the fence to use the facilities while they are still under construction. This shows us there is a great demand and need for skateparks in the city.”

Organized lobbyists

A well-seasoned advocate for skateboarding, Dan Hughes has spent a lot of time exploring public skateparks and documenting his travels on his website. Northwestskaters.comprovides a wealth of information about the current state of skateboarding throughout this region.

Hughes was a member of the Skatepark Advisory Committee appointed by Seattle Parks and Recreation in 2006 to develop the citywide skatepark plan. The committee was comprised of citizens from all areas of the city, and they brought diverse backgrounds, professional expertise and both skater and non-skater perspectives to the planning process for skating facilities.

Hughes shared a brief history of the start of skateparks in Seattle.

“Back in 1977, there were only private skateparks that required a fee to enter,” Hughes said. “Because of liability issues when someone was injured…most ended up closing” because of the high cost of liability insurance.

The 48-year-old veteran added, “We needed to do something for the kids who were getting into trouble when skating on the streets and those who had just started.”

After skateboarding was added to the list of "Hazardous Recreational Activities," property owners were no longer held liable for claims of negligence resulting from skateboarders' injuries.

“It took a while for the city to get skateparks built,” Hughes said.

The city’s first skatepark was at Seattle Center. However, it was demolished in 2006 to make way for the Gates Foundation’s headquarters.

A temporary skate bowl was built in Ballard in 2002. The parks department’s original plan called for a civic center park to be built on the site where the Ballard Bowl was being demolished; the region’s skateboarding community rose up in protest.

“All we wanted was to save the Bowl, and we did everything,” Hughes recalled. “We started attending meetings and talking to politicians and trying to figure out what we could do to save [it]. Everybody from Bellingham to Tacoma came to the Ballard Bowl because it was the only place to skate, and this created a community of skateboarders.”

The organized lobbying paid off. A skatepark was incorporated into the design for the Ballard civic center park.