Phoenix’ Skate Scene

 

Skateboarding is not accommodated in Downtown Phoenix.

 

Understanding of Problem.

Skateboarding is a growing hobby with many benefits. Unfortunately, it is not accommodated in Downtown Phoenix.

According to the Phoenix, Arizona city code, skateboarding is prohibited everywhere except designated skateboarding areas (Phoenix Ord. No. G-4224). Click here to view the Phoenix code pertaining skateboarding. Skaters are no longer able to skate in public areas. Although not being able to skate in public areas is a burden, one might think that skaters can still just visit skateparks when they want to skate.

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The unfortunate part of this situation is that Downtown Phoenix skaters don’t even have a nearby skatepark. There is not a single skatepark in the Downtown Phoenix area. The closest skatepark to central Phoenix (Central and Washington) is Cesar Chavez skatepark which is about nine miles away (Google Maps, May 2016). The second closest skatepark is Desert West Skatepark, just over nine miles from Central and Washington (Google Maps, May 2016).

Map of skateparks in the Valley of the Sun. Notice the lack of parks in Downtown and Central Phoenix
Map of skateparks in the Valley of the Sun. Notice the lack of parks in Downtown and Central Phoenix. This data has been gathered through ConcreteDisciples.com, skatepark.com, and my own data collection. I also interviewed/surveyed skaters, 91% of which said DTP was not accommodating skaters and needs a skateboard park.

With this being the case, skaters in downtown Phoenix have to plan trips and travel far in order to skate legally. However, not all do this. Many skaters still skate the streets of Downtown Phoenix, putting themselves and others at risk. First of all, skating is disruptive. It makes a lot of noise and can get in the way of passers-by. This isn’t okay in an area where pedestrians are walking down the sidewalk, people are working, and cars are passing. A stray skateboard hitting a passerby is just one example of how street skating can go south. On top of people being injured, local businesses and property owners may suffer from this too. An injury from a skater or passerby on private property could leave the owner responsible.

As if property owners weren’t suffering enough already, their property can be severely damaged by skateboarding. Skating requires inevitable contact with the environment, most of which is damaging. Ledges can be chipped, handrails destroyed, grounds dirtied up, and much more. It’s usually the case that the prettier something is, the better it is to skate.

Not only are outsiders at risk, but skaters are at risk too. By skating on private property, skaters run the risk of being arrested, fined, and maybe even sued. Making criminals of active people following their hobby passionately isn’t fair. Skaters are just doing what they love, but they are non-maliciously breaking the law.

Who’s Addressing this Problem?

There are already some people addressing this problem. The first is an organization called the Margaret T. Hance Park Conservancy (https://www.hanceparkconservancy.org/, 2015). The Hance Conservancy is focused on making Hance Park a community hub; the Central Park of Phoenix, if you will. They have a Master Plan that details how they plan to remodel and add on to the park. In the Hance Park Master Plan they have a skatepark concept. I will be writing more on Hance Park and their interventions later.

Another group working on this problem is Cowtown Skateshop (https://www.cowtownskateboards.com/, 2016) , with the help of DLXSF Build Project (https://www.dlxsf.com/thebuildproject/). DLXSF, a skate company originating in the bay area, started a movement called The Build Project, in which they send buckets to skate shops all around the country. The buckets are used to collect donations from skaters, for skaters to build local Do It Yourself (DIY) skate spots. Two spots have already been built using the Build Project funds. The unfortunate part of the Build Project is, because of its DIY nature, some shots are not legal. The first spot was a concrete quarter pipe and some ledges at a lot in Glendale. The spot was open for about one month before being torn down by the owner of the lot. The second spot was built in March and includes pole jams, ledges, and a stair set on a large, smooth lot near the freeway on 16th street. The spot has grown more and more popular over time, but unfortunately it is not legally owned, meaning anyone skating the lot is trespassing and possibly vandalizing.

build-project

Although many of the skate spots made with The Build Project have been built without permission, The Build Project isn’t focused on making illegal spots. The funds can and are put towards 100% legal spots too. If skaters were to legally obtain a lot, some of the funds could be put towards building a skate spot there.

The thing about The Build Project right now is that, even when built on illegal lots, it’s safer than skating on the streets, which is also illegal. In the end, both street skating and Build Project spot skating are illegal, but the difference between the two is that no one uses the lots that are used for the Build Project. The lots are owned by other owners, but the lots used are only ones that have not had any activity on them for years. Street skating on the other hand has people all around, along with valuable and currently active property that could be damaged. Both options  put skaters at risk, but The Build Project allows it to only be skaters that are at risk and not passerbys and business owners. Additionally, the Build Project spots are out of the way and sometimes not visible from the outside, so skaters are less likely to be bothered or stopped. One might think that The Build Project is just funding and promoting illegal activity, but think of it as a safer and less disruptive option than forcing people to street skate.

Vision.

I want to help make Downtown Phoenix a city in which skaters can always have a place to skate without having to be in fear of other people bothering them, getting in trouble by the law for skating, or having to deprive themselves from skating because of a lack of skate spots.

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I envision the great Downtown Phoenix, a thriving metropolitan area with a heavy art presence, a strong parks and recreation system, constant public gatherings/events, activities and areas for all walks of life to enjoy themselves, and an overall great community. Large events, such as First Friday, have people walking, bicycling, and skating through the area. The skate parks are set up similarly to Venice Beach skatepark: placed in an active public area in such a way that passersby can stop, grab some food, take a seat, and watch dozens of happy people practice the beautiful art and sport of skateboarding. With young children, growing teens, proficient adults, and even the old-school masters flying through the air, pulling off their favorite tricks, hanging out with one another, and supporting each other through the whole process, who wouldn’t have the urge to stop for a few minutes and watch?

The skateparks would also greatly contribute to the community by being the grounds for scores of skating events similar to the already existing Union Hills Classic, Locals Only, Tricks for Twenties, and even events like the PHXAM (https://www.cowtownskateboards.com/news.cfm, 2016). These events can include hundreds of people gathering at once to win free gear, to get to know others, to support their family and friends, and most importantly, to watch amazing skaters do what they’re best at!

PhxAm

On the down-low, Phoenix’s great support of skateboarding would allow people from all ages a healthy, safe, fun, and non-destructive way to skate. With skate spots near their schools, homes, workplaces, and everywhere else in Downtown Phoenix, everyone will be happy: skaters, pedestrians, property owners, people working in Downtown Phoenix, law enforcement, and more.

Criteria Matrix.

Here is a link to my Intervention Criteria Matrix. I used this to weigh out and establish which intervention plans would be best for myself, my stakeholders, and the Phoenix community.

https://bit.ly/1YxHHi7

I have had a lot of difficulty implementing and making easily observable progress. Making a skate park is a long and difficult process. Because of this, it is not possible to complete an implementation in one quick movement; implementing will be a slow process, consisting of many stages.

 

What I’ve done.

In the early days of my project I thought that the best idea would be to contact and work with the city of Phoenix Parks and Recreation system to build a skatepark. I called the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and was directed to the Downtown Phoenix district director. I spoke with him about converting part of an existing park into a skateboarding area. The park I had in mind was Verde Park because of its location and the fact that it has a lot of unused space. Unfortunately, the district manager informed me that he had already tried to expand the park and that building a skatepark there would not be an option. He also told me that Phoenix Parks and Rec. didn’t have any plans of their own to build a skatepark in Downtown Phoenix.

I found another organization called the Hance Park Conservancy (https://www.hanceparkconservancy.org/, 2015) whose goal is to conserve Hance park and make it the “Central Park” of downtown Phoenix. Hance Park is currently a popular park, but it has nowhere near the popularity and use as it could. Hance Park is, through the words of the conservancy, “a 32-acre green space in the heart of downtown Phoenix, situated in the midst of a variety of great cultural, arts, and community institutions.” If Hance Park took advantage of its potential, it would be a very important and popular place in downtown Phoenix.

HanceCons

The Hance Conservancy wants to completely remodel Hance Park. The Hance Park Master Plan is a vision that draws out all of the changes planned. The Master Plan contains many additions to the park, one of which is a public skatepark.

Unfortunately, building a skatepark is not a quick and easy task, especially not in an urban environment. The Hance Conservancy still has a lot of work to do. First of all, the location in which the skatepark is going to be built is currently where the Phoenix Trolley museum is located (https://www.phoenixtrolley.com/). The Trolley museum is already planned to move, but it is a lengthy process. Thankfully, The Hance Conservancy, along with other organizations is helping the Trolley Museum with moving.

Another obstacle faced by the Hance Conservancy is the price of not only the skatepark, but the entirety of Hance Park. According to their website (https://www.hanceparkconservancy.org/, 2015), the whole remodel should cost around $118 million to reach their goals (Hance Cons., 2015). This money will be raised through private funding, crowdfunding, and donations. So far the only source of public funding is through donations on the Hance Conservancy website, but they will most likely be starting a crowdfunding movement soon.

Because of the work and amount of money needed for the park, the Hance Park Master Plan will not be complete for at least a couple of more years.

After learning all of this information, I decided that I wanted to help the Hance Conservancy in any way that I could, so I sent a request through the website saying that I wanted to work with the Hance Conservancy to move along the project. Within a few days I received an email from Marcia Karasek, the executive director of the Hance Conservancy. She told me that, amongst other things, my help would be greatly appreciated.

About a week later Marcia and I spoke on the phone. We briefly discussed what was currently happening with the Hance Conservancy. She told me about two of the main obstacles for the time: the Trolley museum and funding. Prior to the phone call, I had told Marcia about my project. While speaking on the phone, she asked me what I would like to see with my project and how she could help. I told her that I was looking for any way to contribute to the progression of Hance Park, especially the skatepark. Marcia told me about an upcoming event, emailed me details about it, and asked if I could spread word of the event.

The event was The Art D’Core Gala under central bridge at Hance park. It was a community gathering, showcasing of art, and a presentation hosted by the Hance Conservancy regarding their plans for the park (Hance Cons. Events, 2016). My goal was to get as many skaters to show up to the event as I could. So I got to work: I emailed important people in Phoenix’ skate community, told all of my friends, spoke with any skaters I was around, made a few posts on social media, and had other people repost the information. I received confirmation from several skaters saying that they would attend the event.

Marcia also introduced me to Leslie Criger, a member of ArtLink, the organization that hosted the Art D’Core Gala. Artlink (https://artlinkphoenix.com/, 2016) mainly works during Art Detour, First Fridays, and Third Fridays and they’re focused on helping to appreciate, understand, and support Phoenix’ downtown community.

Artlink

I managed to seize a spot as event staff at the Art D’Core Gala. I worked on setup, cleanup, and as a runner and registration member. Volunteering at this event allowed me to make connections with some new important members of the Downtown Phoenix Community. I will also be volunteering at First Fridays this month and in the future, allowing me to not only be a part of the community, but also meet more important people. Although not directly related to my STF, getting the experience, work, and connections is very important, and I would not have obtained these opportunities if it weren’t for my STF and Marcia.

Since these first few steps, not much more has happened. This is because – in order to work with the Hance Conservancy – I need to be tasked by Marcia or other members of the conservancy. I have not heard much back from the Conservancy yet, but this is probably because it is a very slow process to move Hance Park along and the Conservancy members are swamped with work. However, it was confirmed that I will be updated and I will be able to help soon. As of right now, I need to wait on my updates from the Conservancy, try to reach out to more people, and continue to be involved with the community.

The future of this project.

This topic and project is very meaningful to me. As someone who loves to skate every single day, it troubles me that there is not any legal place to skate in the part of town that I live in, Downtown Phoenix. Going to skateparks is wonderful; I get to be surrounded by other skaters, skate legally, and not have to worry about people stopping me, threatening to call the police, or trash talking me for skating. Although it may not be apparent to an outsider, I, along with the majority of my friends who skate, are stopped constantly by property owners, security, and pedestrians and told to go somewhere else. Even if people aren’t directly being rude, the fact that they will go out of their way just to get us to disappear hurts. Skateboarders are often looked at as thugs, criminals, and outsiders. There is not a single doubt that some “skaters” are these things, and it is true that, because of its independent and risky nature, it can attract people like this, but not everyone follows this path. Some of us actually want to skate because it makes us happy. Eventually, having so many people going against your lifestyle can pay a toll on your psyche; it hurts knowing that skaters are outsiders and others are often on their toes when they’re around you.

 

Because this topic means so much to me, I am not going to stop pursuing it until there are obvious changes – until Downtown Phoenix has the skate scene that it needs to accommodate skateboarders. However, as we established previously, making this happen will take a lot of time. I have a lot of down-time with this project and can’t see a lot of immediate payoff because of all the waiting I need to do for other people and processes. For this reason, I want to expand my topic for next year’s STF. My main goal will still be on helping to make legal skating in Downtown Phoenix a reality instead of just a dream, but I would like to have other things to pursue in my downtime. I don’t have anything written in stone yet, but I would like to expand from a topic solely devoted to skateboarding to something along the lines of working on bettering the parks system in Downtown Phoenix, or expanding and helping the downtown community. I would like to regularly help Hance Park Conservancy, Artlink, and similar organization while having it contribute to an overarching project and goal.

Over the next few months I will update my website with any new accomplishments and activities related to my STF. As I said, I still plan to pursue this challenge and work to make it better.

 

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