Rainier Beach Skatepark: The ideal location for a multipurpose gathering space becomes a reality
By Emi Okikawa
As a resident of Rainier Beach, Danielle Jackson often noticed youth skating along the side of the street. The sight piqued her curiosity, and as a longtime community organizer, she wondered what could be done to address the lack of skateparks in the area for youth and adults to enjoy.
The 2007 Skatepark Plan
As soon as she got home, she started researching Seattle skateparks and stumbled across the 2007 City of Seattle Citywide Skatepark Plan. Established in response to a 2006 Seattle City Council resolution recognizing skateboarding as a healthy and popular recreation sport, the report laid out a plan to develop a network of skateparks throughout Seattle.
As she delved deeper into the Skatepark Plan, Danielle learned that Rainier Beach had been identified as an ideal location for a skatepark due to its proximity to a community center, four schools, and existing recreational spaces. She was shocked to realize that 12 years later, the community had never tried to complete the project.
The Dynamic Duo
Over the next couple of weeks, Jackson continued to research skateparks and what it would take to build one in Rainier Beach. But it soon became clear that she couldn’t do it alone—she needed a partner, someone who understood the skating community and the formal process for establishing skateparks.
“Organizing—that’s my part in it,” she says, laughing. “I know nothing about skateparks, but I just felt like the children needed options.”
A few months later, Pamela Kliment of Seattle Parks and Recreation suggested that she meet Scott Shinn. As the cofounder of Parents for Skateparks, not only was Shinn familiar with the skating community, he had also been part of the committee that put together the 2007 Citywide Skatepark Plan. Together, they formed the Rainier Beach Skatepark steering committee with five other members.
“We’ve been [joined] at the hip ever since,” says Jackson with a smile. “Man, he’s my rock. We kind of complement each other. I’m more of an outreach person and bringing the community together. He knows everything about skateparks.”
“I’m just happy to be working with Danielle and the Rainier Beach neighborhood,” says Shinn, “because that’s exactly the kind of campaign that I’m interested in—when the local neighborhood is involved in the campaign and they wanna see something happen.”
Why a Skatepark?
When asked about the importance of providing a community skatepark, Shinn easily recites a lengthy list of reasons to invest in a public space. In addition to the physical benefits, the sport also improves cognition and mindset.
“It offers a challenge,” says Shinn, “because sometimes you do the same thing over and over again, and it doesn’t always work out and sometimes you fall down. [Skateboarding] teaches you the process of setting goals and accomplishing them.”
It’s also a place to build community, especially across generations and diverse backgrounds.
“[Skateboarding] is not a competitive sport, and skateboarders really look out for each other,” says Shinn with a smile. “There’s a sense of camaraderie in that space.”
The Community Design Process
Together, along with their steering committee, Jackson and Shinn have hosted several virtual public meetings to solicit feedback and input; over 50 community members attended the first meeting. For Jackson, prioritizing the community perspective is at the center of their campaign to bring a skatepark to Rainier Beach.
“I’m looking forward to more of the community coming together to be a part of this process.… It’s good to have everyone together to see it through so that their ideas and their feedback are being recognized and considered.”
So far, the preliminary designs include a roof and lights, features that will make the park usable all year round and in rainy conditions. Jackson believes that through the Rainier Beach Skatepark, they can provide a safe space for youth and their families to gather as a community.
“We want to ultimately make this a multipurpose skatepark so that it’s not just for skateboarding,” says Jackson, explaining that she wants parents to have options at the park besides just waiting in their car. She envisions a place where families could gather until their kids finish practice and games. “They can go work out. They can go and network with each other and talk about community and the change they wanna see in their neighborhood and still be with their kids.”
The steering committee hosted its final community design meeting on July 20, which 31 people attended to add their input and feedback. Next, it is focusing on obtaining the necessary construction documents, permits, and funds.
As the steering committee steadily pushes its project forward, it is excited by the prospect of having a public space made by and for the community—a gathering space where different cultures can come together to tell their stories and build community. Jackson has a vision of having community art featured inside the park to highlight the beauty of their diverse neighborhood.
“I look forward to seeing their smiles when they realize that it’s more than a skatepark—it’s a place for families to gather and a place of outdoor learning. It’s community organizing like this that makes all the long hours worthwhile.”
A Celebration on the Horizon
Although the final construction of the park is likely years away, Shinn knows exactly how he’s going to celebrate when the park is finally unveiled.
“I like to bring my skateboard to the grand opening for these things and get there before a lot of people show up so I have the park to myself and can skate it at least once,” he says with a grin. “I enjoy the experience of riding my skateboard in a place that I helped to advocate for.”