UPDATE: This post was written 7+ years ago and a LOT has changed. TAMS is now TCCS. The old CSA website doesn’t exist anymore. I’m keeping this up for historical purposes, but I’m also writing some newer content soon. I’ve tidied up some formatting but kept this post content unchanged.
In my town (Canberra, Australia) we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to skate facilities. Belconnen is the biggest park in the southern hemisphere and five of our parks have lights that operate every night. Unfortunately in the past it has taken some effort and lobbying to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of our skateparks.
Thankfully we’re reaching a point in Canberra where we don’t have to jump through as many hoops just to be heard. In this post I’d like to share some of the tools and strategies used by myself and others in the past to get local government to fix skatepark issues. Most of this is just common sense stuff but maybe it’ll be of use to someone wanting to get things done in their town.
Take photos and notes
When you see something that needs fixing pull out your phone and take some photos and notes about it. Try to take photos that will easily demonstrate the problem to a non-skateboarder. A good example is the photo below. Holes in the concrete at Erindale were big enough for wheels to get stuck inside so I took a photo with my wheels stuck in the hole. This photo put emphasis on the safety issue that had gone unnoticed.
Who to contact about it?
The next step is to figure out who is supposed to be responsible for skatepark maintenance and what is the best way to contact them. In my case I knew that skateparks are the responsibility of a local government organisation called TAMS (Territory and Municipal Services). Canberra is a bit different than most places when it comes to local government. In other towns a good place to start is your local council.
How to reach out to them?
Our first method of contact is to fill out a form on an ACT Gov website called a “fix my street” request. For the benefit of my fellow Canberrans the form link is below:
On the occasions that my requests were not followed up, I emailed some people at TAMS directly. The drawback of sending website requests and emails is that they’re easily ignored or disappear into the ether. Surprisingly the best way I could ensure some kind of response was to use social media, particularly Twitter. Raising issues in a public forum means that the people responsible can actually be held accountable for ignoring your request. I eventually discovered that following up my requests with a tweet to the TAMS Minister would ensure that they were not ignored.
But there’s a crucial thing to remember when you’re contacting people like this…
Be polite and diplomatic
It should go without saying. Don’t be a jerk! You’re likely going to be dealing with people that don’t appear to know or care much about skateboarding. It’s important that you keep your correspondence clear, concise and very polite. If you have a bad attitude or come off as arrogant then you’ll be ignored. You should aim to work up a good rapport with your council.
Leverage your scene
This might not work well in every situation but it’s done the trick in Canberra. Get some other locals on the same page and have them contact the council too. If they’re hearing more than one complaint then they’ll see that there’s actually demand to get your problem fixed. Also, emphasize the positive aspects and/or history of your skatepark to build a case and let them know that it’s worthwhile fixing. The history and heritage of Erindale and Kambah’s facilities have been used in the past to build a case for fixing. See the examples below.
If all else fails, DIY
Sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself. After all, some of the best skateparks in the world are 100% DIY efforts. Do some research on concrete or cement and then get a crew together to come up with a plan. I saw a perfect example of this is when I was on holiday in Canada. I skated a park called Beasley in Hamilton, ON. The park was was frequently being added to and repaired by the locals. My understanding is that they’ve got an agreement with the city. Their scene appeared to be thriving because of the camaraderie and pride that the locals have in the place. Sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling for councils to be willing to work with you. When Lanyon Skatepark was relocated I went to the effort of drawing up an amended plan and sending it to a minister. She noticed the effort and arranged a meeting between us and the project managers to have them consider the changes. Another DIY effort in Canberra skatepark maintenance is Belco Bowl. The surface has been completely refurbished and repainted by locals in their spare time.
The things I’ve written about are just some of my personal experiences and they’re not all that much in the grand scheme of Canberra skateboarding. I suggest checking out the Canberra Skateboarding Association website and having a dig through the old posts. We have the amazing skateparks that we have in Canberra thanks to the past lobbying efforts of that organisation. You can also find a link below to read more about the history of Beasley skatepark in Hamilton, ON.