My STF challenge is that skateboarding is not accommodated in Downtown Phoenix. I know this to be true for two reasons. The first is that, according to the City of Phoenix Municipal codes 36-64, “ No motorized skateboard or motorized play vehicle may be operated on any public sidewalk, roadway, or any other part of a highway or on any bikeway, bicycle path or trail, equestrian trail, or shared-use path.” This means that skateboarding is illegal in and/or on any public space. The code continues on to say that skateboarding is also illegal on all lots that aren’t designated skateboarding areas.
One’s first thought may be “why don’t skaters just go to skateparks/designated skateboarding areas?”, which leads right into my second reason. Despite the fact that this seems like an easy solution, it is quite the opposite for many Downtown Phoenix skaters. The closest skatepark to Downtown Phoenix is Cesar Chavez park which is on 39th Avenue and Baseline, approximately 10 miles from Central and Washington.
So, Downtown Phoenix skaters don’t have any designated places to skate and are not allowed to skate in public. This means that they have two options: they can choose not to skate in downtown Phoenix, requiring them to give up what is a way of life for some; or, they can skate illegally. Because there is no better option, many skaters will go with the latter option, thus making criminals of innocent people trying to do what they love.
Why is it that skateboarding is illegal in Phoenix? Well, as hard as it is to say, there are several good reasons. The reason that I’ll start with is that skateboarding can heavily damage property. Many skateboarding tricks require obstacles such as ledges and rails. “Grinding” is when a skater slides along a ledge or rail with the metal axles on the bottom of their skateboard. Grinds can cause ledges and rails to crack, chip, and get worn down in various other ways.
Naturally, property owners do not usually want their property to get damaged, but unfortunately, skateboarding is a massive damage dealer.
Another reason is that skateboarding can be very disruptive. Riding down the street or sidewalk is very noisy by itself, but the sound increases significantly when doing tricks. Just about every trick in the book produces massive amounts of noise. In areas with other people, this can get very annoying and distract from other activities. Skaters may also get in the way of cars, pedestrians, and anything/anyone else passing by. This is not only annoying, but can endanger both skaters and surrounding people, which leads right into the next reason.
Skateboarding can be a very dangerous activity. Skaters may fall and hurt themselves. This is not only bad because skaters can get hurt, but also because the owner of the property in which an injury happens could be held responsible for the skaters actions. This means that skaters may have the option to sue an owner if they hurt themselves on the owner’s property. Passersby may also be injured by skaters. A board could slip out and hit someone walking down the street. Once again, this is bad because someone is being injured and because the property owner may be held responsible or sued for the actions of skaters.
Now that we’ve gotten the laws out of the way, why is it that there aren’t any designated skate spots in Downtown Phoenix? Well, there are a few reasons. Because of the size and density of Downtown Phoenix there aren’t many suitable lots for skateboarding. Many of the vacant lots either have stuff built on them or have plans to be built on. Almost all of the lots that are suitable for skateboarding have very high values because of the fact that they are in a growing metropolitan area, and are thus very expensive.
What is it that Downtown Phoenix skaters are supposed to do if they can not reach a skatepark? If skating in Downtown Phoenix will make them criminals but giving up their hobby will result in misery, it seems as if there is no solution.
That simply isn’t an acceptable answer. Skaters and everyone else interested in solving this problem will have to come up with some solution. Thankfully, a few groups are already addressing this challenge.
Hance Park Conservancy is an organization working on remodeling Margaret T. Hance park entirely. One of the additions to the park in their master plan is to add an area for skateboarding. There is a big area in the park that has been designated for a skatepark. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any big news on the project for a while. I don’t know much yet on where Hance Conservancy is in their process, but I am working on getting in contact with them and hopefully helping with the project.
The Build Project is a fundraising effort started by a company called DLXSF. DLXSF sent out buckets to hundreds of skate shops all around the country. These buckets are labeled with “The Build Project” and are set out for local skaters to donate money. After collecting funds for several weeks, 100% of the money raised goes directly into building places in the area to skate.
So far, Cowtown Skateshop -a skate shop located in Phoenix- has raised funds and built one spot in the valley. Unfortunately, they are having trouble finding an area in Downtown Phoenix at which they can build, but they are still searching.
Verde Park is a public park in Downtown Phoenix ( 916 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ 85006). Right next to the park there is a large, empty lot that has been vacant for years. After doing some research, I found that it was actually two separate lots owned by different people. One lot is owned by a private business owner in Paradise Valley. I originally thought that the other lot was owned by the City of Phoenix, but after calling our Parks and Recreation district manager, I was informed that the lot is not owned by the City. I will be calling or visiting the Maricopa County Assessor’s office to see who owns the other lot.
These lots interest me because they are ideal lots for building a place to skate in Downtown Phoenix. After learning a bit about the lots, I contacted Trent Martin, an owner of Cowtown Skateshop. Fortunately, I have worked with Cowtown before and already know Trent, so contacting him was no hassle.
Trent told me that he would be happy to spend some of the Build Project funds on a spot in Downtown Phoenix, but they were having trouble finding a lot. He then went on to say that if I found a suitable building space, I can tell him and we can work towards building something using Build Project funds.
My plans going forward right now are to contact the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, contact the owner of the other lot next to Verde, update myself on the Hance Conservancy Project, and continue to look for lots in Downtown Phoenix where we can build a skate spot.