Its seems like skate parks have been a “trend” in urban parks for some time now, and they have very slowly entered into the mainstream planning of park facilities.
A recent article put together by the TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence concluded just that, indicating that “there are only 180 skate parks in the 75 most populous U.S. cities. Fourteen have none at all, and 23 have just one. On a per capita basis, only nine municipalities have more than one skateboard park per 100,000 residents.”
One reason, as the article notes, is that “many residents consider skate parks to be LULUs—locally undesirable land uses in planner-speak—and they want them as far away as possible. And that frequently is the outcome.”
Several cities have chosen to construct large skate parks located near transit or centrally located. The large facilities also can provide unique features that a smaller facility cannot. The skate park in Denver is almost a work of art, and it has helped enliven the the city’s Lower Downtown area. Some cities have constructed skate parks underneath freeways and places where other parks would not work. This is an innovative use of space, yet it does not necessarily reach kids where they live. The work in both Minneapolis and Las Vegas highlighted in the article to bring smaller facilities into neighborhood parks seems the closest that skate parks have come to finding a place among other features such as basketball courts, tennis and the like:
The [Minneapolis] park and recreation board built six tennis court-size skate parks—one in each park district—and placed them near established recreation centers. Doing so automatically supplies the skaters with restrooms, water fountains, and parking spaces. The location also facilitates police presence on the officers’ normal rounds. Moreover, the recreation centers provide alternative activities if the skate area happens to get too crowded.
Las Vegas also has a skate park in each of its 10 districts, ranging in size from 4,500 to 30,000 square feet. With more skate parks per resident than any other big city, Las Vegas has even created an Office of Extreme Sports.
The full article is a good overview of the different forms and ways of planning and creating skate parks.