A dramatic clash is unfolding over construction of a skatepark in lower Woodland Park. Skateboarders have been working with the Seattle Parks Department for nearly two years designing and planning a 20,000-square-foot skatepark for the area. But near the end of the design phase, a group of neighbors countermobilized, filing a legal appeal to the skate park's environmental impact statement in an attempt to keep the skatepark off the Green Lake grass. The appeal effectively stalls skatepark construction indefinitely.
Back in 2005, skaters opposed the original site for the skatepark—a wooded area in a back corner of the park—because the shade and dampness limited nighttime and rainy-season skateability. Moreover, 31-year-old skate activist Matt Johnston says, the seclusion reinforces a "weird image" of skaters as antisocial miscreants. In late 2005, the parks department responded to those concerns by moving the site several hundred feet east, to a grassy area across the street from some Green Lake residents' homes. That site, however, didn't sit well with neighbors, who formed the Lower Woodland Park Neighborhood Association (LWNA) and demanded the skatepark be moved back to the original, secluded location. But even after the parks department moved it back earlier this year, the LWNA, revealing what some skaters feel is the neighbors' real agenda, filed their appeal, claiming that even the relocated skatepark will displace "dog walkers, Frisbee throwers, and kite flyers" from the park, and lead to graffiti, increased noise, and "increased aesthetic impacts."
"Here you have these people who are living across the street from the [park who] are holding it hostage from the rest of the city," says Johnston, who worked with the city throughout the design process for the skatepark.
"What a lot of people enjoy is just a big piece of open grass," counters David Mann, the LWNA's lawyer. "This is a permanent conversion of green space," he says, "and who knows if it will be used?"
The skaters want to get the ball rolling after months of haggling with the city, even if the location is less than ideal. "I'll take a skatepark on a nuclear-waste site if it means we can skate there six months from now," says Johnston.
"The city of Seattle is tearing down more skateparks than it's building," Johnston adds. "Kids are skating in the streets... It's just ridiculous."