SHORT VERSION: to secure important funding, a short-timescale (before Fri 10th February!) petition has been set for the rebuild of Stirling Skatepark. If anyone who thinks this would be a good idea could show their support, I'd really appreciate it. You can sign the petition here.
Despite moving to Glasgow over a year ago, I still get through to Stirling as often as I can. When I'm back, I'm catching up with my parents, Alex's parents or friends (or all of the above). While that doesn't usually leave too much spare time, I do try to head along to the wee skatepark if I can.
Stirling Skatepark aka 'The Bowls', situated in King's Park, is a small, rough concrete affair that has seen better days. It's badly designed and not much fun to use. I love it, though. It was my park growing up and, as far as I'm concerned, it's still my park. From 1994 through 2009, I'd say that I visited that little grey island almost every (dry) day. Some summers 12hr+ sessions were the norm. And, even though my usage has shrunk to a handful of visits a year, I reckon there's a good chance that I've spent more time in that skatepark than anyone else in the whole wide world.
My mum and dad live nearby, you see. I could get there in 5-10 mins and nip home on a whim if I needed to. If the skatepark was a pub, I was a local. Whenever I go back, I half expect to be greeted by bunch of friends but instead it's a new bunch of young folk who make me feel like the old, crap skateboarder that I am. And that's fine. That's the way it should be.
Anyway, the reason I'm bringing this up is that there are plans afoot to renovate the park. For the past few years, BMXer, park regular and all-around good dude Ali Hair has lead a campaign to secure funding, planning and permission to, y'know, make the place less crappy. He's close too. Really close. There are plans, there is permission and there is almost funding. A last-minute hitch, however, has required a petition to allay any doubt that the park might not be popular enough to justify the expense. That's totally understandable. To a lot of people a skatepark is nothing more than an intimidating eyesore. It's a place where youngsters 'hang out' and do things. Recently, the park has been in such disrepair that it's actually kinda dangerous to use and if there has been any lessening in attendance, I'd blame the design and upkeep of the facilities before worrying that kids don't enjoy having fun anymore. That or the weather.
Regardless, here's something I've noticed in nearly 20 years of using Stirling Skatepark: If it's dry, if it's daylight and if it's not ridiculously early in the morning, there will always be someone using that park. And it's not even a very good park!
When the weather's good, you're all but guaranteed that it'll be busy too. That's all the justification needed. How many other free-to-use public facilities can you say that about? That wee park has kept hundreds, if not thousands of young (and not so young) people entertained, out of trouble and well-exercised for a long, long time. Skateparks are great little social melting-pots. They let kids meet people from other schools, from other towns, from other backgrounds, cultures and occupations. Without Stirling Skatepark, I'd have left school a sheltered, anti-social, uncultured little geek (or at least more of a sheltered, anti-social, uncultured little geek). The park has always been safe, quiet and friendly. Yeah, teenagers hang about there and pull up their hoods but guess what? That's what teenagers do. They do that everywhere. They can't get enough of doing that. Skateparks don't encourage troublemakers and if you think they do, I'm sorry, you're wrong. Kids go to these places because they love riding skateboards, bikes and rollerblades.
So, although I'd be sad to see the old place go, a better skatepark is desperately needed in Stirling. It's a small place; there's not much to do. People get bored. If the city wants to keep up with the rest of the country, we need to be on top of stuff like this. Falkirk has a great park, for God's sake. Falkirk! Skateboarding and BMX have been popular for long enough that there's no excuse for any town not to support them properly.
If you agree, please sign the rebuild Stirling Skatepark petition before Friday the 10th of January 2012. Thanks.
For more information, the best place to go is the Stirling Skatepark Users Facebook page where Ali keeps everyone up to date by announcing the latest developments. Being Facebook, you can also catch up / discover / skate-date with loads of the people who actually use the park. In addition, there is a Stirling Skateboard Users blog that covers key points in the process. The proposed design is by the nice guys at Wheelscape Skatepark Construction.