Five DIY Skateparks in the U.S.

Burnside Skatepark The Burnside Project began in 1990 under a bridge in Portland, Oregon. The rainy climate, lack of skate terrain available, and a motivated group of skateboarders led to the development of the first renegade DIY skatepark.

Like many bridges, the embankments underneath the Burnside bridge were neglected, and allowed to fall into disarray. The area was used for illegal dumping, illicit drug deals, and a transient camp. The skaters realized an opportunity to develop their skatepark. After massive amounts of clean up, concrete was poured at the base of the embankment, making it more conducive as skate terrain. Other features were constructed to compliment what had been built.

The skatepark continues to evolve, with some elements being modified or updated. However, to this day no public funds have ever went into the facility. A majority of the materials were literally donated one bag of concrete at a time. The parks department doesn’t include it as a sanctioned city park, but it does provide a trash dumpster and portable restroom.

FDR Skatepark

Downtown Philadelphia is home to Love Park, one of the most beloved environments for street skating we have ever known. Skating in Love Park was increasingly disallowed, and 1994 saw a 16,000 square foot skatepark built intended as a replacement in South Philly. While this represented the best of intentions, the elements provided proved to be inadequate almost immediately, and the skaters began work on improving the skatepark themselves.

Inspired by the precedent set by Burnside, elements were constructed to compliment each previous development. Other than the initial offering of the failed skatepark elements, $25,000 is the extent of the public funding that has went into the materials comprising the skatepark.

In 2005, FDR hosted the Gravity Games and was also featured in the video game Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground. The park features endless concrete speed lines, a mini ramp and a vert ramp. The park you see today was built with private donations and donated labor, and is much larger than the initial 16,000 sq ft. park provided by the city.

Marginal Way

In 2004, Seattle had two skateparks, both of which were scheduled to be replaced in new locations. The frustration caused by having two skateparks demolished drove some skaters under the HWY 99 viaduct south of downtown. Prior to its life as a thriving skatepark, this spot was used primarily for transients living in automobiles, much to the chagrin of the local businesses.

As each feature was implemented, the project became more popular not only with the skaters, but the community as a whole. In a rainy climate such as Seattle’s, the bridge provides welcome shelter. The short days of wintertime have inspired lighting to be installed. It continues to grow, with grassroots fundraisers covering all of the costs. It is estimated somewhere around $40,000 has went into this project, with 100% coming from the skaters themselves.

Washington Street Vigilante Tranny

San Diego is a longtime hotbed of street skating, but over time the anti-skating ordinances continue to get stiffer, leaving some looking for alternatives. The construction of modest obstacles began under a bridge in 1999. Within a year, the authorities discovered the project, and shut it down. A non-profit was formed, land use permits, encroachment and removal permits, and construction insurance were obtained.

An engineering permit (at a cost of $2400) allowed construction to continue. The process of bringing the documentation up to the standards required by the City of San Diego took until 2001, after which the park was completed.

Kings Highway Vigilante Tranny

The entire midwest is largely devoid of quality skateparks: most of them are composed of modular playground equipment. The skaters in this part of the country tend to feel that the only way to acquire adequate skate terrain is to take matters into their own hands.

Underneath the Kings Highway viaduct in St Louis, MO is a vibrant DIY skatespot where only garbage once collected. When the director of the St Louis street department found out about the renegade concrete, he brought his sons down to ride the park. This project continues a model of fundraiser, concrete pour, fundraiser, concrete pour.