Skate park designer Charlie Wilkins explains the design process for developing a community skate park.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A long-discussed skate park is finally taking form.
More than a dozen community members of all ages met Thursday with a skate park designer from Spohn Ranch Skate Parks to brainstorm possible designs and how to integrate the city's culture into the park.
Professional skate boarder and skate park designer Charlie Wilkins presented the design process and possible ideas.
"I want to know what the community wants for a park. I want to design a park for you guys and the community at large," Wilkins said. "I don't want to build something that I want to skate. I want to build something that you want to skate."
A Community Development Block Grant has allowed the city to pursue the skate park project that started five years ago when teenagers from a UNITY youth leadership program at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition established the idea.
"I think this community really needs a skate park, and this whole area needs a skate park," Wilkins said. "There isn't much for nice safe facilities for kids in the community to enjoy out here."
Wilkins said he wants to design a park that everyone in the community can use and enjoy.
"This a big thing that the city wants, and it is something that I want, too," he said. "I want this to be used by the whole community. I don't want it to be just skaters going there all the time. ... I want people to go there and hang out and watch all day."
Wilkins said the park should have picnic tables and seating, as well as shade so people can comfortably watch others skate boarding
City Planner Mackenzie Greer, of the Office of Community Development, echoed Wilkins' point and said the park should be something the whole community can enjoy.
"We want a community park a space where parents are welcome, members of the community can come and see skateboarding as a sport and really appreciate it, and have some exhibition and cool stuff around it," Greer said. "We want it to become a destination that brings people in form outside of our community."
Wilkins said appearances are important to his work and he wants the park to be pleasant to look at.
"We like to use more visually pleasing things in our parks so it's not just a blob of concrete," he said. "It just looks cool, and you just want to walk up sand see what's going on."
Wilkins said he went to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts and would like to include "skate-able art" in the park.
"I grew up skating in Boston, and there were a ton of sculptures in Boston that looked like they were made for skating," Wilkins said. "I think Mass MoCA is such an asset to this community, and if there is anyway to tie in the idea of art it would be great."
Wilkins said he wants to draw from the city's history. He said he placed a cog in a Wisconsin park he designed from a local factory so skaters could "ollie over history."
Wilkins proposed building a concrete park because it is permanent compared to its cheaper counterpart, wood. He handed out surveys so local skaters could write down their skill level and what they would like to see in the park.
Wilkins asked anyone interested in helping with the design process to past ideas on the North Adams Skate Park page.
"Send me links, videos, photos, and anything that you love," he said. "The more stuff that comes towards me via the Facebook page the better."
As of now, the proposed areas for the park are the park at Houghton and River streets, the parking lot behind Big Y on Holden Street and the Noel Field Athletic Complex. Wilkins said it is important that the park has good visibility.
"The park should have good visibility for cops and so parents can check in with their kids. That's not the main focus, but you don't want the park to get shady," he said. "If it has nice frontage and you can just drive by and it is visible and that's better for the community because less wired stuff can happen."
He said it also helps if the park is surrounded by businesses and activity.
Other aspects of a good location Wilkins mentioned, was a centralized location so kids can skate over and proper drainage and space.
Greer said the project is still in the design phase, but is moving forward.
"We are starting to really generate the ideas, figure out the site, and really move this forward," Greer said. "It really helps for us to have a concept design because we can start to get more funding and go after some different grab funds that are good for skate parks."
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For whatever it's worth, I vote for the parking lot behind Big Y. I like it because it's accessible (near downtown, etc.) and also improves the space. I'd be ok with Noel but it's not as accessible for much of the town. I'd personally rather not see the park take over the Houghton Street playground - the field there is already used by kids for ball and frisbee, and the track is already used for kids' bikes and parents walking. It would be a shame to take that away. Better to find a place that is NOT being well used - like the parking lot behind Big Y. Just my two cents. Also really appreciate the thoughts about space that everybody can use.
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