Text and photos by Jason Ryan

 

I was meaning to go on a photo-finding mission to Peoria's Skatepark in Peoria, Arizona for a while, and finally got it done a few weeks ago.   I have wanted to take pictures of what parks and recreation staff commonly refer to as "skatepark damage", which they commonly attribute to BMX bikes.  I chose Peoria's Rio Vista Skatepark as my example because the park rangers at this park are notorious for keeping bikes out of the skatepark.  I've even heard of instances in which they've jumped people's shit just because a person pulls up in their vehicle in the parking lot with a BMX bike in the car or truck.  As if that's not bad enough, I've even heard of Rio Vista park rangers giving riders crap just because they've got BMX bike company stickers on their car or truck!  Even as I pulled up on a random day at a random time to snap some pics, there was a park ranger's truck parked just outside the skatepark.  It was unmanned, but I suspected at least one ranger was close by.
 


 

For the purposes of this exposition, however, this constant monitoring of the skatepark by Peoria park rangers is a very good thing.  Peoria park rangers have done an excellent job of keeping bikes out of Rio Vista Skatepark, and yet the park still exhibits a great amount of wear and tear.  Wear and tear, not "damage."  Over the years, bikes have been blamed by parks and recreation departments all over the U.S. for every chip, scrape, and gouge in public skateparks,  both in parks that don't allow bikes as well as ones that do.  I am going to prove that this accusation that "bikes damage skateparks" is a myth.  Skateboards cause just as much wear and tear on concrete skateparks as bikes do.  They just cause different types of wear and tear.
 

 


 

Lets' kick things off with a nice kickflip out of a bank, over a small gap and onto a flat slab of concrete.  Oops, I didn't kick the board all the way around, and it landed on its side on the concrete.  Guess what hit the deck, causing the chips you see above?  The axles of my skateboard trucks, which are made out of hardened chromoly steel.  That slab's got more pock marks than the countenance of a McFlabby's fry cook!  You'll see this kind of wear and tear anywhere skaters are constantly flying out or dropping down onto flat concrete.  You'll also see it in pools, in spots where skaters bail their boards a lot.  The above pool has been taken down to the aggregate rocks from flying boards landing on the tips of their axles in one spot.
 


What's going on with these stairs?  Whatever's going on with them, it sure ain't caused by bikes.  Bike riders grind on their pegs and pedals, but we can only grind on objects that are at least 9 inches tall, because of the height of said pegs and pedals above the ground.  These stairs are each about 4 inches tall.  There isn't a lot of room at this particular set of stairs to grind on one stair from the side, but I can sure ride my board down them.  It was a bumpy ride for sure, but I felt a little snag as I rode down the set.  That was my Grade 8 hardened steel kingpin hitting the concrete corner and breaking off a little piece.  Rinse and repeat a few thousand times, and stairs start looking all haggard like this.



 Oh, this is rich.  What you're looking at limestone pool coping as an edge treatment for one of the skatepark's bowls.  Limestone was used by Neanderthal artists in prehistoric times to sculpt objects because of its softness and easy workability, and it is used today to help keep water inside a swimming pool and provide somewhat of a handle to help aquatic enthusiasts exit said pool.  The geniuses that designed this park (Site Design Group) specified limestone pool coping to edge one of the pools, because skaters like how it grinds.  It grinds alright, right into little smithereenees.  The most popular place to grind the pool coping is above the stairs in the pool, and that's where the top picture was taken.  I have an eyewitness account that the pool coping above the stairs was replaced just before the World Cup contest a couple years ago, and by the end of practice it was already beat to shit.  Needless to say, at a busy World Cup practice with lots of grouchy old skaters and plenty of cops and rangers, there weren't any bikes around.



If you saw these holes in a park that was constantly ridden by bikes, you would probably think they were caused by round pegs hitting the wall.  I highly doubt this is the case here.  Check this out:  To save money on constantly buying new plywood for concrete forms, skatepark builders re-use their crappy old plywood forms to form up boxes like the ones above.  After the concrete has set and the forms are removed, the builders go back and put a thin layer of concrete "icing" (usually around 1/4 inch) over the surface to smooth out the huge ruts and ridges caused by using crappy plywood forms.  With a thin layer of concrete laying over concrete, what wouldn't break it?  You could probably go up and kick it with a stiff leather cowboy boot and break a piece off, for God's sake!  And what are you doing wearing cowboy boots in the skatepark anyway?  No cowboy boots allowed in the skatepark, goddammit!
 


And that brings us to the bare concrete edges that adorn a good percentage of this and most skateparks in the world today.  I'm going to ollie (hop) my skateboard and land on a bare concrete edge with my aluminum trucks, which feature a Grade 8 hardened steel kingpin protruding out of each of them, ready to dig into the concrete at will.  The result?  Exhibit A, your honor.


            

                                 


 

Here's some more wear and tear at Peoria Skatepark that I can't as easily account for.  I can't tell if skateboards caused these gouges, or if poor building techniques did.  Regardless, it wasn't from BMX bikes.  Concrete skateparks won't last forever without maintenance.   Parks and recreation departments tend to have this mentality that they can build a skatepark and just forget about it, and as long as they can manage to keep bikes out, they'll never have to repair it.  Foolish assumption.  Concrete freeways need maintenance, concrete sidewalks need maintenance, and concrete skateparks need maintenance, especially when one of the main activities in the park is grinding aluminum and steel objects on the untreated edges.  This is not damage.  This is wear and tear, and it needs to be seen for what it is, and repaired, not used as justification to discriminate against kids who want to ride their bikes in a public park that their parents' taxes paid for.