Over burgers and beers at the Tin Hat in Ballard recently, Tim Demmon and two fellow skateboard activists, Dan Barnett and Shawn Bishop, outlined how their illegal takeover of an abandoned piece of city land in October 2004 has led to what will likely become Seattle's first covered space for skaters, Marginal Way Skatepark—and how the whole effort grew out of frustration with the city.
"We scoped an unused piece of city property," said Demmon, gripping a Pilsner Urquell as he recounted how the effort began. "It was a homeless camp, a garbage dump, an area where prostitutes and drug dealers congregated—it was a piece of shit. We took it, cleaned it up, talked to the area businesses and got them to sign off on our [then] illegal project."
It was a drastic response to what the activists felt was a dark time for the city's skateboarders. ["Skating on the Margin," by Amy Jenniges March 10, 2005.]
"The city [kept doing] this thing where they were tearing down skateparks and rebuilding them," said Bishop. "The Seattle Center skatepark was sold to Bill Gates, and they're tearing that down and rebuilding it somewhere in that vicinity. So rather than spending the resources on adding more skatable features and square footage to existing Seattle skateparks or building new parks, they were just wasting their energy building parks that they had just torn out."
That led, Bishop said, to there being less skatable footage today in Seattle than there was two years ago. Plus, the city's effort to build more skateparks was three years away from completion, and it wasn't clear it was going to go as planned.
"There's no funding locked down for [future parks]," asserts Demmon. "Neighbors can complain, you can have siting issues... there's actually no assurance that anything the city says can actually get done. We're [hopeful] that they are, but we're skateboarders, so we're going to make other stuff happen."
Hence, the illegal Marginal Way Skatepark. The activists' construction efforts there eventually drew the attention of city officials, and the process of making their endeavors legit began.
With the critical consultation and assistance of Grindline, the local construction company specializing in building skateparks, the base of the Marginal Way site has already been poured. And along with a perpetually multiplying collective of volunteers, Demmon, Bishop, and Barnett are making quick progress on the park. The only daunting obstacle is money. They estimate that they've spent around $5,000 so far, but at least $30,000 to $50,000 more will be needed for supplies alone. Thankfully, the community support has been impressive.
"Bands have been coming to us, offering to do benefits," says Bishop incredulously and with obvious gratitude. Sunset general manager Kwab Copeland and the owners of Bomb Shelter Skateshop in Ballard have helped coordinate a series of benefits set for this spring, which the activists hope will help keep their construction effort going.
The first of the benefits for the Marginal Way Skatepark will be held on Saturday, March 4, at the Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Avenue, at 6:00 p.m. 21+. The event, presented by Bomb Shelter Skateshop, will feature live music by Wizards of Wor, the Vaccines, the Fakies, the Projects, and Dirt Poor Crazy People, plus skate movies and a raffle for skate gear. Cost: $5.