Skate parks are a win for everyone, though some community members may take a bit of convincing. Parks provide a well-designed space for amateurs and serious skaters to try out new tricks and meet others within the community. There are some stigmas associated with a skate park, like drinking and smoking, that do hold true in some circles (like any hobby full of thrill seekers). Skating is also a multi-billion dollar industry, full of serious performers who practice their sport daily. Today’s kid earning his or her first scrapes at a skate park really could be tomorrow’s next big name.
That all starts with the park itself, which provides kids a safe space to skate without fear of breaking local laws. Skating on private property can cause legal trouble for kids just looking for something to do. Skate parks are becoming a popular way of getting skating off the streets and into a safer space at local parks. Skating advocates may even petition to open one in your town. If you’re concerned with the atmosphere at your local skate park, or you just want to be vigilant of your surroundings, read on for a safety audit anyone can do and tips to stay safe.
Safety Auditing Your Park
Lots of cities are developing neighborhood parks, and so there may be a skate park near your home. This can be great for you and your kids, assuming the route to and from is safe enough. With this safety audit, you can identify signs to look for that signal how safe your route to and from the park will be.
Walk the Neighborhood
Start by walking the route and getting to know your neighbors. A block party is great for meeting immediate neighbors, but going outside the neighborhood requires a different kind of effort. Maybe you can create a fun fitness challenge for you and your family to go on one 30 minute walk every day for 30 days, using that opportunity to stop and chat with neighbors along routes to the park.
Look for Hiding Spots
Check for alcoves that aren’t well lit, like street-side power boxes, walls with pockets where someone might hide, or large hedges and trees that obscure view. Are there undesirables in your area? Do you feel you can approach most people you see on the street?
Look for signs that the area is safe, like kids and adults playing outside or working on their homes.
Where is Help?
Next, figure out the distance to the closest police and fire station. Most injuries in skateboarding occur to the hands, wrist, and legs, and typically only to beginning skaters, but it’s important to estimate how long it may take help to arrive. Also, law enforcement commonly patrols public parks. If you see police throughout the day, it can be a sign the park is safe and well-patrolled. Be sure to check websites like Crimereports.com for local crime statistics in or near that park to verify.
Your Own Protection
Make sure your kids know where to go in the event of an emergency, and that they have access to you when they leave the house. Your phone should be on and audible, and they should have theirs on at all times. Consider martial arts and teaching them conflict avoidance skills, like out-maneuvering cars or seeking help in an emergency.
The general quality of the park can tell you a lot about safety, with or without crime statistics. Cracked and broken pavement within the skate park or the public space can tell you how well maintained and used the park is. There may also be staff walking the grounds, either making repairs or handling event coordination. These important indicators tell you how safe the space is, and what it’s generally used for.
Park visibility is another concern. One of the principles in park design is to create good visibility, utilizing brush and natural elements that simulate the feel of nature with space to see around you. Hikers and joggers need to feel safe as they move, so parks tend to avoid having a lot of structures around the outside. Skate parks that are located near the parking lot, for instance, tend to have quick access to the street and not much brush blocking them. Skate parks further into the park’s interior may require different access routes and may not be readily visible to police that patrols the perimeter or neighbors working nearby in their front yards.
Skate parks also tend to use fencing that provides some protection to spectators and skaters. Fencing should be see-through, yet high enough to prevent unintended injuries from skating tricks gone wrong.
Check equipment and fixture quality. Modular equipment was popular in park design for a time. It’s cost-effective and movable for a different layout. In practice, it also works a lot like retail furniture that only lasts one or two moves before it breaks down completely. If your skate park uses modular equipment, avoid this park. You will know it’s modular if it’s not concrete and part of the park itself. The risk of accidents will increase when poor materials are used in construction.
Basic Skating Etiquette
Skaters can be a complicated breed of people: some may be social outcasts who feel alive when they skate, others may be adrenaline junkies, or kids who think teens look cool. There are so many motivations for why someone hops on a skateboard, but the etiquette skaters display at the park tells you a lot about the atmosphere.
Are skaters taking their time, letting others go on a line before attempting a run? Are older kids talking with younger kids, showing them pointers, or are they largely avoiding them? Are there younger kids, or is the age mix primarily older? Crowd sizes can also present a danger. Visit the park at off-peak hours to see if it’s better to send your kids before the older kids arrive.
Crime and News
Local news is seriously underrated today, especially when we’re thinking about how safe our neighborhoods are. Visit your local station’s website and do a search for the name of your skate park. Any stories ever done about that park should pop up, and provide a brief history of anything that has happened there.
Crime Reports, and websites like it, also provide public reports of crimes committed with brief descriptions. If you see any reports at your local park, it’s a good idea to visit with your kids so you can observe any bad behavior firsthand.
It’s usually not easy to identify someone at a park by name, but you can check your local law enforcement websites and newspapers for mugshot databases of any known criminals. From there, you have the option to inform law enforcement that you have witnessed that criminal at that park on however many occasions.
Also, make sure you document any crimes you see in progress. Your phone is a powerful tool for surveillance and evidence gathering.
Private skate parks are another option if a park isn’t near your home, or if your neighborhood doesn’t feel safe enough to let them go alone. Some parks may also require a waiver for kids of a certain age to sign, and for parents to review. This is common since skateboarding does present a risk.
Skate parks can be a great place for kids to hang out and meet new friends and role models, but it can also be a place where bad influence and awesome hobbies intersect. You can help your kids stay safe by making sure that where they want to hang out doesn’t present a danger to them, and providing them with safe alternatives when they can’t stay close to home.