YOU KNOW THAT FEELING when you hear urethane skateboard wheels thundering down the sidewalk and your shins practically ache at the thought of an impending you-versus-skater collision? Yeah, well Torontonians didn’t like it either.
That’s why the opening of Toronto’s Eighth Street Skate Park in July was a proud moment for city council member Mark Grimes. First elected in 2003, Grimes had vowed to provide the misunderstood—though thriving—skateboarding population of Toronto a place to play. “It’s a really unique community,” said Grimes. “They just need a place to apply their trade.” It took months of scouting locations, a handful of community meetings, and roughly $500,000 of the city’s budget, but the Canadian skaters got their own turf.
Seattle skaters didn’t feel so lucky when Seattle Center’s outdoor skate park shut down back in 2007; the site was demolished to make way for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters. And that could’ve spelled disaster. “More skate parks in America means fewer kids doing bad things,” suggests Charles Donaldson, a skater and employee at the Seattle skateboard shop Thirty Fifth North.
Good thing voters approved the $146 million Parks and Green Spaces Levy passed in 2008. Now three parks, with budgets totaling $1.4 million, are set to open this fall in Ballard, Beacon Hill, and Northgate, and two more parks are expected to open in 2012.
“Skateboarding is a sport full of heroes and mentors,” said Dewey Potter, spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation. “And if you provide spaces where people can do positive things, there will be fewer negative things happening.”