How to Pick a Suitable Site

Site Evaluation

How do you find a site for your skatepark? Your best bet is to ask the city council to donate the land upon which to build the skatepark and to maintain the skatepark after it opens. However, be informed when it comes time to select a site. You should be prepared to suggest the best possible location. Pick a few possible sites in your town and rate them using your own rating method. Keep notes with your comments. Don’t make this more complicated than necessary, just look for key items. Is the site accessible? Is there adequate parking, pay phones, and restrooms? Is security an issue?

Once a site has been agreed upon, the first thing to do is to get the property surveyed. This will establish elevations from which to begin design and construction. As with most things, try to get this donated by a survey company in your local area. Once the survey has been completed you will be provided with a map of the site showing the contours and elevations. The survey company will also provide you with the same information on floppy disk. This information, along with the skatepark design and recommendations from a structural engineer will result in the blueprint for your new park.

Engineering Services

Engineering services are often perceived to have no direct bearing on a skatepark. The truth is, they are critical to the longevity of the facility. While a park may look great when it is first built, if it is not engineered correctly to withstand the forces of nature, it may not last for long.

One of the first things to determine is the depth of the water table. In essence, this is how deep you can excavate before the hole you are making starts to fill up like a bathtub. This may seem like a minor detail, but it is not. During the construction of the Newport, Oregon skatepark, they mistakenly excavated below the water table. In an effort to stop the flow of water, shotcrete was applied. That didn’t work. What remained can only be referred to as cement soup. It took another season, more of the cities money and a tremendous effort on the part of couple of professional skatepark builders (willing to fix someone else’s mistakes) to get the park where it is today.

You will also need what is called a “soil-boring”. This is a sample taken from the existing soil that is submitted to a laboratory for analysis. A structural engineer will then determine specifications for the construction of the facility based upon the results of that testing. While it may look the same to you and me, some soil is highly expansive and will blow up like a balloon when wet. And when the soil expands, it can shove a skatepark around like it was nothing. At best this can cause substantial cracking or worse, the dreaded vertical separation. Think “stairs” where none were planned.

Construction Drawings

Once you have decided upon a location for the park, have a finished design, the results of the property survey and soil borings, it is time to turn it all over to someone that can turn the plan into a set of construction drawings. These blueprints are accurate delineations of the park design that guide the contractor during construction. It includes all details pertinent to the construction of the skatepark. The accuracy of the construction documents is essential to the bid process, because it allows the builders to bid accurately and correctly. Therefore, all builders will need to see the construction documents in order to bid as accurately as possible.

Again, you will want to attempt to get the drafting services for the construction documents donated if possible. This is when a copy of the construction drawings from an existing skatepark will really help. Many of the construction details for a skatepark do not change substantially from one project to the next. There is no good reason to pay a draftsperson to figure out how to do something for the first time when they can refer to a document that is essentially the same thing. The city council may be willing to donate the services of a city employee. If not, there are probably several architects in your area. An advanced student of architecture is also capable of rendering the blueprints for you. At this point it is important to stress that the conceptual/design work is finished and that whomever is working up the plans should not make changes without the input of the skatepark committee and the professional designers.

Written by Anthony Gembeck