The Opening of a Municipal Skate Park: Exploring the Influence on Youth Skateboarders’ Experiences
Keywords:skate park, skateboarding, youth
AbstractAs skateboarding increases in popularity as a sport, municipalities in North America have responded by constructing skate parks in their communities. While research has focused on issues such as skateboarding injuries, liability and risk management, and skate park designs, little is known about the effect of skate parks on the skateboarding experiences of youth who use them. The two objectives of this paper were to explore in what ways the leisure and skateboarding experiences of youth in a small community in Atlantic Canada were affected after an indoor skate park was opened and to determine the youths’ perceptions of and experiences with the space that had been constructed for them.Using semi-structured, face-to-face interviews, data were collected from eight skateboarders who were regular users of the facility in the first three months after it was opened, the three summer skate park supervisors, and the community’s youth leisure services coordinator. The findings suggested that the skateboarding youth experienced their leisure in general as enhanced after the skate park opened. They spent more time out of the house, engaged in more physically active leisure, and enjoyed more social leisure with peers. This particular skate park offered opportunities to “hang out” and engage in other activities in addition to skateboarding. The youth were able to integrate skateboarding with other unstructured leisure. The youths’ specific skateboarding experiences were also enhanced. They described experiencing more freedom and challenge in their activity and improvement in their skateboarding skills. Finally, the skate park became a symbol that the activity of skateboarding and youth who skateboard were valued within their community. The youth were also very appreciative of the facility.While a small segment of the community used this facility (i.e., youth ages 8 to 18), this skate park had features of a positive youth setting (Eccles & Gootman, 2002) and appeared to contribute to the positive development of the youth in the study. Locating a skate park facility where, or near where other activities are available can provide youth with the opportunity to engage in a variety of unstructured recreation activities and to interact with other youth who may not be interested in skateboarding.?
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