Thursday, April 1, 2010

the prince george's skate park boom

mount rainier skate park

The Mt. Rainier Skate Park is located at the corner of Otis Street and Wells Avenue, wedged between a residential area and train tracks in the Prince George's County town. It finally opened last July after two years of delays and negotiations with neighbors who worried about noise and crime.

At about 6,000 square feet, Mt. Rainier is the closest local park in size to the proposed Woodside skate spot. Not surprisingly, it's also what the Silver Spring skaters I've talked to mention as a example for what they'd like the park here to resemble. Sk8ter Mom, whose name should be familiar to you by now if you've ever read this blog before, worked with the Mt. Rainier community to ensure that the skate park was both fun for its intended users and a good neighbor to those living and working around it.

View montgomery and prince george's skate parks in a larger map
Skate parks in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Blue dots are currently open parks and red dots are parks either proposed or under construction.

Prince George's County is in the middle of skate park building boom. In addition to Mt. Rainier, there are existing parks in Bowie and Greenbelt, with others to be built in Hyattsville, College Park and Clinton. Even Laurel Mall (where ambitious renovations planned there way back in 2006 have never come to fruition) has a skate venue in an empty storefront called Good Vibes Central that opened last year.

Compare that to Montgomery County, where we've got two actual skate parks in Rockville and Olney, a temporary one built by police officers in Germantown, and another built by the kids themselves in Kensington. But there could be a skate spot at the new White Oak Recreation Center, which should open by 2012.

A skate park isn't inherently a regional amenity, no more than a basketball court or a swimming pool. But with so few of them - and a clientele that often can't drive to one - it's important to put them in places that are easy for kids all over to get to by foot, bike or public transportation. Prince George's has four skate parks located along Route 1 - but they're all located near Metro stations or on major bus routes, making them accessible to kids who don't live nearby.

'K-Town,' Summit at Knowles, Kensington (Cropped)
K-Town in Kensington was built and run by the kids who use it.

None of the existing or proposed Montgomery parks can claim that kind of access. Olney and Germantown are hard, if not impossible to reach without a car, and the Rockville skate park is a mile walk from the Metro.

97,000 people will pass through the Silver Spring Transit Center each day when it opens, arriving on Metro, light rail, commuter rail, and dozens if not hundreds of local and intercity buses. We should be looking at this area as a place to put attractions befitting a regional audience - shopping, jobs, theatres, music venues, libraries. And skate parks.

The kids are coming to Silver Spring anyway, to hang out, to shop and eat, to see and be seen, and even to skate. We should be providing them places to go - ideally more than the Woodside skate spot, which for all its merits won't even accommodate the kids who live here.

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