On a Thursday afternoon in autumn, there are close to a dozen skateboarders and BMX riders weaving around Paine’s Park obstacles and each other. Josh Dubin, the executive director of Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, explains that if school weren’t in session, there would be more. The Philadelphia skatepark, now open for more than a year, is the pride and joy of Dubin’s skateboarding advocacy non-profit, which works to establish new parks in the City of Brotherly Love. Runners following the adjacent Schuylkill River Trail pass by. A mother pushing a stroller cuts through a grassy inlet. “It’s like a park,” says Billy Mahoney, 20, who skates at Paine’s Park a couple of times a week, on the different kinds of visitors he sees.
Critics have praised Paine’s Park, a space that very easily could have been a large cement bowl, for accommodating multifaceted use. At one glance, it looks very much like a plaza. From slightly higher ground, its amphitheater design is more apparent. The tiered ledges curve in the direction of an elevated stage. Complex named Paine’s Park in its list of world’s most innovative skate parks.
Inga Saffron, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, noted in her review that Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund had to raise $4.5 million to bring their vision for Paine’s Park to life, and they did so by “badgering state, city, and private funders to pay for the project.” The space reveals the shift in how skateboarders and architects imagine skateparks. But it also represents a surge of civically engaged skateboarders who are taking city building seriously. The kids who clung to their boards in the ’80s and ’90s have grown up, some of them into advocates. San Antonio has a “skate plaza” program. Seattle welcomes boards not only to skateparks, but “skate spots” (1,500 to 10,000 square feet) and “skate dots” (smaller than 1,500 square feet). Portland’s system has branched out to designate skateboard routes in the city’s downtown.
We may be nearing the day where skateboard urbanism is a thing. This urbanism would be interesting and tasked with a lot: public spaces and skateways that can accommodate a sport for both forward movement and stunts, while not scaring away mothers out for walks with their children.
“The pendulum of history is swinging back towards cities now,” says Dubin. “This is a challenge that cities are facing: How do you incorporate skateboarding and people who want to engage in the activity into the urban landscape in a cohesive and comprehensive way?”
text from: nextcity.org