For one skateboarding advocate here, creating a system of skate parks in West Seattle isn’t just about building places to do aerials and flip tricks.
So far it’s just a blueprint with no funding, but the citywide skate park plan is gaining momentum in West Seattle, fueled by passionate skaters like West Seattle resident Matt Johnston.
Johnston, who served on the skate park advisory task force that helped develop the plan last year with Seattle Parks and Recreation, is also determined to change some minds along the way. At 36, he remembers what it’s like to be thought of as a delinquent simply for the kind of sport he enjoys.
“What we want to do in West Seattle is make sure skate parks are successful for everyone in the community and not just the skateboarders, because a successful skate park requires community support,” said Johnston. “The last thing we want to do is be skateboarding in a community who hates us or who doesn’t want us there.”
SKATEBOARDERS DESIRES. “It would be awesome if my friends and I could walk down here every day,” said Max Sadow, 10, of a possible skateboard park in the Alki neighborhood. His father notes they have to go to Burien or Renton for skateboarding now. Photo by Steve Shay. Courtesy of West Seattle Herald
He brought up a community meeting held this past March to discuss the design of the future Myrtle Street park at the site of Myrtle Reservoir on 35th Avenue Southwest. The location was recommended for a skate facility in the citywide plan but so far the community has been largely opposed to the idea.
Some at the meeting said a skate park would attract “derelict teenagers” and be noisy. Johnston is concerned common fears like these associated with the sport will isolate West Seattle’s skate parks and its estimated 4,000 skateboarders.
Built in the right location, with an appropriate design and a welcoming community, skate parks can actually serve as a vibrant part of a neighborhood and discourage bad behavior. But anything pushed to the fringes, whether it’s a skate facility or a basketball court, can invite unsavory activities, he said.
“(Skate parks) actually deter bad activities because it programs the space and puts people there,” Johnston said. “You have to build it for some people to see how great it can be. This is something positive for the kids.”