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Vansittart Road Recreation Ground Skate Park

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

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 them.

Vansittart Rec Index

I have just spent the last hour or so reviewing your very one sided website 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 points raised.
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 skatepark.
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, benches, etc.
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  etc.
Unfortunately this element exists within all teenage groups. Even so called professionals don't have the answer to these social problems.
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 unsightly graffiti.

"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 up.
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"
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.

"Grandmother too 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.

" "...a 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 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 said.]

"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 wannabees.

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 here.

In the meantime we are grateful to Steve for taking a considerable amount of time to give a skater's view.

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