Board boom

• The skate park at Booyeembara.

• The skate park at Booyeembara.

Colin Nichol, grind date poser, with a sketchy trick on skateboarding

When it comes to looking for them, there are more skate parks in the metropolitan area than you could poke your board at. There is one nearer you than you think. Today, there are more than 50 mtetropolitan local government-backed parks and reportedly nearly 200 in the state.

It’s a well-known fact that Western Australia has a “good amount of skate juice in its water supply.” Many famous world-class shredders have come out of this state. A booming activity, there are four in Fremantle or near vicinity.

The better-known are on Beach Street, near Captain Munchies, which street heads decry as “too small” and the other on the opposite side of the former woolstores on Cantonment Street.

This is the more famous, unplanned ‘woollies’, with its perfect ledge, running along the side of the derelict building. The other two are on Montreal Street White Gum Valley, at the edge of Booyeembara Park and Thompson Road North Freo.

The culture is refreshing its image from the perceived troublesome one to family-friendly recreation, although reading users’ online posts gives cause to wonder. Baldivis residents recently objected to a park in their area.

Safety considerations mean councils specify use ‘at own risk’ and advise wearing a helmet, a requirement more observed in the breach. For approved events, Skateboarding Australia may provide public liability insurance coverage up to $20 million. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report covering 2005 states hospitalisation rates of skaters 15 years and over, at under 0.739%.

Stephanie Jackson, Youth Events Facilitator at the Leederville-based YMCA headquarters, centre for the state’s skateboarding and one of the most popular and largest parks, names Morley and Manning as two other most popular for either street or park skaters and says enthusiasts “will travel” and go as far as the popular Boyanup one.

Mixing a skate park with general public activity presents a special case for care over security, especially at night. Otherwise policing, noise, first aid facilities, cleaning, graffiti control, repairs and maintenance, lighting and indeed toilet facilities, which are already over-stretched on big occasions, all need careful consideration.

Bikes may be used on some and not just skateboards but blade skates, rollers and scooters. There is a language that goes with the culture and for its architecture: blocks, box, ramp, bowl, drop-in, vert, rail, funbox, pipe, graph, lip, ledge, gnarly, spine – and more, in use and doubtless yet to be invented.

That culture will increase on Fremantle’s streets and along the roads and footpaths leading to the Esplanade. Skateboarding between cars and pedestrians is a prospect that may require controls while congregations of aficionados on street corners could potentially bring more to the city centre than business for the take-aways.

Innovative initiatives bring issues with them, but whether Fremantle gets its new skate facility on the Esplanade Park or elsewhere near city centre, it should be large, worthy of the city and an outstanding example of imaginative design. As well, peripheral thinking associated with the impact of such a project should be built in.

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