We started our engagement process by asking: what does a citizen skater look and act like in Calgary? The answers we found were both anticipated and surprising, cliche and unpredictable. We learned that skaters as citizens shape the city through both formal and informal processes; that skaters are integrated into many different networks and communities; that their presence in the city both while skateboarding and in their “daily lives” have impact on the culture of place; and that there is an etiquette to skating that suggests camaraderie and inclusiveness. Skaters are a creative bunch who continually expect more of themselves, the community, and the city. We wondered how we might work with the skate community to advance these goals.
We met with several members of the skateboard community citywide and with folks from the neighbourhoods where the parks are to be built. Common concerns emerged out of these conversations: 1) that the parks need a diversified group of users; 2) that trust between the skaters and the surrounding communities needs to be strengthened; and 3) that regulating the parks needs to be a shared responsibility between users and non-users. Working with the theme of “creating capacity, creating trust,” we have created three projects and a legacy component that address each of the numbered points above. Designed in consultation with members of the skate community and different community associations, these projects are generative and collaborative. We are excited by the way in which the projects propose alternative ways for stakeholders to engage one another in around the parks.
Skate School for Women
With this project we are looking to increase the number of women users at the new skate parks and within the skateboard community city wide. The hope is to create a core group of skaters who will skate together on a regular basis and become leaders and mentors for other women of all-ages in the community. At the end of the course we will work with the participants to create a mandate or plan of action to engage young women and to encourage participation in skateboarding. To accompany the plan we collaboratively design a “logo” that represents female skaters in Calgary. The logo will be turned into an embroidered patch that mentors can distribute to other women skaters at parks throughout the next year or as long as supplies last as a way of showing solidarity.
Skate School for Police Officers
Skate School for Police Officers will be a key piece of engagement for the new skate parkS. We are looking to run a one-time skateboard workshop for police officers—particularly Community Resource Officers and School Resource Officers. The workshop will be run by three qualified instructors—two teenagers and one adult—who will teach the participating officers the basics of skateboarding: balance, pushing, stopping, turning, ollie, and ramp riding. At the end of the course officers will keep their equipment and skateboards and will have the skills to confidently use the new skateboard parks. It is our hope that by bringing together the skateboard community and neighbourhood police that long-lasting relationships might be forged through a meaningful shared experience. We love the idea that officers can engage the city’s youth at the new skateboard parks as skaters. We love the idea that officers will keep their skateboard in their office at a high school or in the trunk of their patrol cars and when time permits, engage the community and the city’s youth at the new skateboard parks and elsewhere in the city.
"Skaters from around here and elsewhere" Newspaper
We started this process with the false perception that skaters and park users were going to be largely teenagers. This is a perception shared by many of the different folks we met from the neighbourhoods where the new skateboard parks are being built. Of course, the skateboard community is much more diverse—with users occupying different genders, ages, and socio-economic positions. We want to convey this information to residents by introducing them to skaters in their neighbourhood and from across Calgary. To do this we are creating a newspaper (think of it as a “yearbook”) that will profile park users—particularly from the skate community. By putting a face and a name to a person, we hope to dispel some myths about skateboarders and skate culture.
Documentation, Legacy Project
The projects we are proposing are about relationships and experiences and they have been designed specifically to generate new ways of engaging others in and around the skate parks. Other than a newspaper and an embroidered patch (that perform largely unseen tasks), there will be very little physical material at the end of the process. In this regard, it is important that the projects be carefully documented so that we can create a legacy for the work. It is our intention to create a video and a small publication that helps to share with stakeholders and others what took place and how the projects laid a foundation for possible future results.