by M. Anthony Davis
Danielle Jackson, president and founder of Changing Habits and Motivating Personal Self-Esteem (CHAMPS), has been serving South Seattle youth and families through her resource and service center since 1999. The main focus areas of CHAMPS are housing and financial stability, health and safety, and community participation.
One of Jackson’s current projects, which she has been working on for the past few years, is bringing a skatepark to Rainier Beach. The proposed skatepark would be in the field next to Rainier Beach Community Center (RBCC) and would coexist with a baseball field, a play structure, and an open grass field.
“Back in 2007, the City did a citywide skatepark plan,” Jackson explains. “There’s a list of different parks in southeast Seattle. The one that I’m interested in building a skatepark at is Rainier Beach Playfield right behind the Community Center. We have an opportunity to have a district-size skatepark, which is 10–30,000 square-feet. This is a great opportunity.”
According to the City of Seattle Citywide Skatepark Plan, in 2006 Seattle City Council “adopted a resolution recognizing skateboarding as a healthy and popular recreation” and “resolved to establish a network of skateparks of various sizes throughout the city.” A Skatepark Advisory Taskforce was convened to work with a consultant to push forward the effort to create a plan for potential skateparks at sites around the city.
Taskforce members wanted to understand how existing skateparks in Seattle and surrounding areas functiontioned, so they visited skateparks in numerous locations. They learned how these existing skateparks were designed, and along with their consultant, they presented their findings to Seattle Parks and Recreation. These findings not only focused on design and functionality, but also the day-to-day impacts skateparks have on communities. This allowed the taskforce to identify positive impacts of skateparks and decide what sizes and types of skateparks they would recommend for Seattle communities. The final proposal included four types of parks: Skatedots, Skatespots, District parks, and Regional parks.
Citizens and public agencies made over 100 nominations for potential skatepark sites. Taskforce members partnered with an external consultant to visit all of the sites nominated and used a weighted criteria to score each site and compile a short list of sites to include in the citywide plan.
Rainier Beach playfield was recommended as a potential District-park-level skatepark, which is described in the citywide plan as a facility that can range in size from 10,000–30,000 square feet and is about the size of four tennis courts. These parks can accommodate up to 30 users at a time and are meant to serve an area larger than just a neighborhood and allow use for a wide range of skill levels.
Jackson says she is interested in working to bring a skatepark to Rainier Beach because she believes the neighborhood needs one. “I literally see kids skateboarding in the street,” she says. “No helmet, no safety, no anything. Literally skating down Renton Avenue, down the hill, on a skateboard with no helmet, no pads. And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And I see it more and more. I came home, and I looked up skateboard parks. And I came across the city wide plan.”
In 2018, Jackson started organizing community meetings to discuss the possibility of building the skatepark. She knew the importance of getting feedback from people in the neighborhood, so she connected with staff at Rainier Beach Community Center and the Rainier Beach Library and held a few community meetings at the library. These meetings were primarily attended by people who lived outside the neighborhood, which was not what Jackson intended, but she continued to reach out to community partners she was familiar with for feedback.
Some community members Jackson talked with pushed back on the idea of building a skatepark as large as she was proposing. According to Jackson, some people thought that having a skatepark that big in southeast Seattle would lead to gentrification and encourage people from different neighborhoods to come into the community. But Jackson believes the skatepark will create a new level of access for youth in the neighborhood.
“Skateboarding is very popular,” explains Jackson. “And it’s not just for skateboards — [the skatepark] is for bikes too. And there are skaters and bikers making millions of dollars in this sport. Why can’t our Kids of Color have that same opportunity? Why can’t they be exposed to things besides football and basketball? We’re always talking about ‘balling.’ Let’s show them something else.”
The next step in Jackson’s plan for the skatepark is to host another community meeting. This time, she hopes to have more participation from people who live in the community. After her last round of meetings at the Rainier Beach Library, she almost gave up. But community members began reaching out to her and asking about the skatepark. She even has a handful of people willing to volunteer to write grants and start a campaign.
Jackson is excited about coming back to jumpstart this project, but she is very clear about who she needs to participate in the effort. “Honestly, I don’t want it to be a bunch of people from the North End, Spokane, or from different areas. I want it to be people from the Rainier Beach or Skyway neighborhoods. I don’t want someone from the outside dictating what we want.”
Community involvement will play a pivotal role in this process. While the City has already zoned RBCC for the skatepark, the funding for the park, which could cost $6–$45 per square foot, must be community led. The citywide plan did not include any funding allocations from the City. This means volunteers for grants and community campaigns will be crucial in securing the funding for the skatepark.
To find out more about the Rainier Beach Skatepark, you can sign up to be notified about community meetings and updates. You can also participate in a virtual meeting today, Wednesday, December 16 from 5–6:30 p.m. For the meeting ID and passcode to join the Zoom meeting, contact CHAMPS at 206-518-7444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.