SK8: Urban innovation and governance in the spatial and social design of skateparks

Presented at: Association of American Geographers Annual Conference 2016. San Francisco CA.

Abstract: April 2015: In Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre legalizes skateboarding in Peace Park. In Ottawa, construction is finally underway on McNabb skatepark. As a means of transportation, recreation, athletic endeavour, and alternative community, skateboarding has a conflictual but undeniable relationship to the city. Though the current trend in city-sanctioned skateparks is often initiated through community grassroots organization, there is a strong reliance on city governance. Whether cities authorize skateparks through deregulation or funding purpose-built construction, the conventionally radical and outsider skate community becomes participant in official processes and control. Despite the re-emergence of skateparks in cities (and suburbs), academic research on the urban cultural, political, and spatial impact of skateboarding is still marginal. The core research in this area by Iain Borden and Ocean Howell primarily address the spatial and historical dimension of skateboarding, and issues of social governance and justice, respectively. This paper aims to combine these two approaches to the study of urban skateboarding by comparing and contrasting Peace Park and McNabb Park through the lens of urban innovation. This paper begins with a brief history of the two parks, their respective neighbourhoods, and background on the recent community-led movements to transform each into a skatepark. It follows with an analysis of the spatial innovation of both parks either through transformative use or purpose-built design. Next, the social innovation of both parks will be used to explore how the community mobilized in each context, which stakeholders were involved, how each approached the city and engaged in the political process.

Panel: Urban parks and green spaces in the 21st century city

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