9th July 2001
The View from
an Inline Skater
News is spreading far
and wide of our extensive coverage following the revamp of Vansittart
Recreation Ground. Here we are happy to include an unedited email
from 'Steve' who runs a web site dedicated
to Inline skating www.ukskate.com
Much of his email claims that we are against
the skaters. In reality we are concerned about the problems attracted
by the skate park and have used the Web to promote and illustrate
I have just spent the last hour or so reviewing
your very one sided website www.thamesweb.co.uk/vansittart/ which
was promoted in a recent issue of the Observer under the heading
"Woes on the Web".
I'm not quite sure where to start, since there is so much negative
material on the site, it would take hours to comment on all the
I went to check out the skate park this evening with a few other
skaters. We are all very proficient skaters and found the facility
to be very well designed and constructed. It provides many challenging
features even for advanced skaters as well as easier equipment
for the beginners and intermediate skaters too. We all enjoyed
skating the park and will become regular visitors, since we live
around Ascot and Bracknell.
I found all the skaters, Boarders and BMXers very friendly and
welcoming. The skaters were all eager to learn off of us, asking
how to do various tricks and stunts etc.
I personally welcome the local council's decision to create such
a facility. They have clearly realised the need for facilities
such as these are very necessary.
The alternatives for teenagers who enjoy the sports of inline
skating, skateboarding, BMXing and even microscooters are far
more dangerous and annoying to the public than a purpose built
If you were to visit areas where there are currently no skateparks,
you will find many "street" obstacles being used by
these sports in an improvised fashion. These include but are
not limited to, handrails, steps, walls, ledges, Banked walls,
Injuries on such obstacles are much higher and usually worse
in nature than those sustained in purpose built parks.
Of course, the sports all have an element of danger and the risk
of injury is always there. It is accepted by most participants
as "par for the course" and is to a certain extent
part of the attraction to the sports.
There is an element of these teenage groups that will use street
obstacles no matter what purpose built equipment is provided.
There is also an element of these teenage groups which will Drink
alcohol, smoke, be abusive, experiment with drugs, make Graffiti
Unfortunately this element exists within all teenage groups.
Even so called professionals don't have the answer to these social
What I've found since becoming heavily involved in the skating
community in the UK is that the vast majority find that skating,
boarding, BMXing is what keeps them out of trouble and off of
the temptations that teenagers with "nothing to do"
often fall into.
On that note, I'd like to address a few of
the specific comments on your site.
Firstly a general point. Right from the early stages of this
project, it is clear that residents were unhappy and had decided
they weren't going to accept it. You and others have gone out
of your way to show how bad it all is without even giving it
a chance. The "NIMBY" factor is clearly evident here.
ie "it's a good idea, but "Not In My Back Yard""
I know that I could personally pick any town without a skatepark
and obtain pictures such as those on your site supposedly depicting
the results caused by the new skatepark. They are unfortunately
a factor of modern social problems found in almost any large
town. This is not a problem that is going to go away competely
even if you remove the skatepark. For example, you can go
into just about any underpass in the country and be faced with
"These are steel plate
and the noise of crashing and banging can be heard hundreds of
yards away late into the evening."
The skate park has been constructed right next to a major unrestricted
road, which carries high levels of traffic which must equal or
surpass the noise levels of the skatepark at most times. As the
park has only been open since the warmer weather, I wonder how
much the noise is noticed more due to home windows being open
and people trying to listen out for the noise.
"Where is the supervision?"
Full time supervision for a small outdoor skatepark is almost
unprecedented. The Rickmansworth facility you mention is a well
built large scale skatepark with more equipment and a larger
area. Visitors to that skatepark are happy to pay a small fee
for it's use as it's such a good facility. I believe also that
Local residents get free or substantially reduced entrance too.
They have gone to extremes to passify the many local elderly
residents which are close to the park. (This was an unfortunate
choice of location, more so than Vansittart).The park is closed
all day on Sundays, when most teenagers have time to spare !
It closes well before dusk on most evenings. There is what appears
to be a very secure, very expensive steel fence all around it.
The chains were in use the last time I visted the park. Believe
me, you really "CANNOT" skate the ramps when the chains
are on. It also only takes a few minutes to put them on. It's
hardly going to disturb the neighbourhood when they are chained
I would suggest that for a park such as Vansittart, either the
local beat bobby, if you have one, or a designated authoritive
person employed by the council visit the park at least a couple
of times a day, not at the same time each day !.
This would have the affect of deterring many of the more unruly
teenagers from even visiting the area. It would make less
confident youngsters more comfortable with visiting the skatepark.
Any damage etc can be quickly reported to the relevant departments
for repairs etc. Whoever takes this role should make an effort
to "get on" with the regular dedicated skaters who
to a certain extent will carry out some "policing"
of their own and may point out problems which aren't obvious
to an outsider looking at the park.
If the councils has the funds, CCTV would of course help enforce
further the expected levels of behaviour.
"and will be fenced
to 3m high"
If this is done PLEASE don't make it a wooden fence ! Bracknell
council recently spent a fortune on erecting a monstrous 3m high
wooden fence around one local skatepark. This has had a negative
affect, since people can't see what's going on inside ! People
who don't even skate, board or BMX are going there simply because
it's of of sight !
If it's decided to have a fence, it should be a strong steel
mesh with a difficult to scale design.
"cycles ridden on
The equipment is designed to be used by at least 4 wheeled "extreme"
sports. These include BMX and mountain bikes, skateboards, Inline
skates and even Scooters. The metal design of the ramps is actually
better for the bikes as their "pegs and pedals"
tend to cause damage to wooden ramps.
Many supervised parks have specific times where only bikes can
use the equipment. The bikes are obviously quicker and hurt more
if another user collides with them. This is why many parks encourage
them to only use the park at certain times. An outright ban is
unusual and almost unworkable on an outdoor park.
frightened to take children there or walk past "
I think much of the perceived fear of going near the skatepark
is completely unfounded. The "extreme" nature of the
sports involved attracts very confident, fit, athletic, energetic,
outgoing individuals. Many people lead very passive lives and
such exuberance actually scares them. The sport itself scares
people because of the stunts that are performed. "Normal
people" find it hard to understand such sports. I can see
why an elderly person in particular may feel intimidated by the
presence of these teenagers. But the fear is far greater than
the perceived threat.
"Stones and rocks
strewn around "
Any skateboarder or inline skater will tell you how dangerous
stones etc are when skating. Even small stones will have the
effect of locking your wheels sending you lurching forward to
the floor. It's unlikely that skaters or boarders would be the
culprits for this issue since as soon as it's done, they can't
then skate ! It's more likely that someone who doesn't want them
to skate would use this to stop people skating. It surprises
me that when skateparks are built, sources of stones etc are
so close to the parks. There's some that even have a ring of
stones around the park, presumably to make it look nice or something.
skate area...", a description that
one would have thought would be along the lines of Alexandra
Gardens which does not, as far as we have heard, constitute an
inconvenience or cause annoyance to the residents nearby"
The "skate Area" in Alexander Gardens caters for one
small part of the skating sport. It is primarily a flat surface
suitable for "recreational" skating and inline Hockey,
similar to Ice hockey on wheels. Altogether far more serene activities.
A skatepark however is designed for "extreme" sports
activities. It is more Trick and stunt orientated with fast thrills
and spills. This is what many highly active teenagers need. It's
not a sport that suits everyone, but there is a growing demand
for such facilities. We at UKskate.com are currently seeking
to build a large indoor facility in the Thames Valley area to
meet this growing demand.
"The short answer
is that the Skate Park is in the wrong part of town"
This is the "NIMBY" factor in full swing. Wherever
you put any facility for youth or minority groups of any kind,
there will always be those who want it to be elsewhere. Perhaps
councils should reserve land 1 mile away from each town and build
all the youth facilities there ! Get real please ! [Editor: That is not what we have
"Other general remarks
about vandalism of trees, fences, cars, property etc."
I'd be interested to see info on your site from those
who've seen such incidents as to whether those involved were
carrying skateboards, wearing skates, or were on BMX bikes.
I suspect as in the case of other such facilities I visit regularly,
that the worst offenders are not actually participants in the
sport itself, they are merely hangers on, casual spectators and
I've addressed some but not all the issues arrising from your
site. I would like you and your supporters to visit my site and
see what the sport is all about. You may then see what is behind
the sport and it's participants and begin to understand it without
being afraid of it. You can read profiles on hundreds of skaters,
see the skaters in action in pics and video, see details of other
skateparks all over the country, see the professional skaters
in action, those who are driving the sport to new heights including
the world champions. You can also see the results of a survey
of nearly 1000 skaters from all over the country. This gives
an insight into the lifestyles of the participants and lets you
see that most the skaters really are just ordinary teenagers
involved in a very exciting sport.
I hope you will put this email on your site in it's entirety
if only to address the balance of debate on the subject. I have
left out my surname in case you have any Aggrieved visitors to
your site wanting someone to take out their anger on.
If you have any questions about the sport or would like some
specific advice about skating, skateparks etc, please feel free
to contact me.
From the Editor: Steve
raises a number of points here and we have already responded
at considerable length to his comments, some of which we agree
with, some of which misrepresent what we are saying. Our response
to this letter is available
In the meantime we are
grateful to Steve for taking a considerable amount of time to
give a skater's view.