Below lies a grant proposal I wrote proposing for funds necessary to create a public skatepark in Lafayette, Louisiana. The city currently does not possess one. While this blog is primarily focused on coffee and will continue to be in the future, I think social spending on public recreational areas is incredibly important and unfortunately lacking in certain areas of our country.
Skateparks and coffee shops actually have a surprising amount in common to me. Primarily, they are both incredibly important to an area’s culture. These places are cultural landmarks, shaping the conversations, interactions, and lives of like-minded people in the area. Every skater remembers their first park, first kickflip, first bail, first injury. Every barista cherishes their first rosetta, first good espresso, the moment they switched from Keurig to single-origin Kenyan. These memories would never happen without these cultural monoliths.
This proposal was created for academic purposes, and details the plans of an imaginary organization of concerned skaters, fighting for imaginary money to construct an imaginary park in a very real place.
Misunderstood, underrepresented, and neglected, Lafayette’s skateboarding community has existed forgotten by the city for far too long. Skate parks serve as centers for social interaction, cultural exchange, and a safe space primarily for the younger skating community that would be doing it in the streets, on private property, and otherwise unsupervised. Lafayette’s lack of a public skatepark is a tragically missed opportunity by the city and the state. The city has a population of over 125,000(worldpopulationreview.com), it is home to Louisiana’s most popular local skate shop in Rukus and is one of the largest cultural centers in Louisiana. The absence of a public skate park in this city is disappointing, and potentially dangerous.
Lafayette is the 4th most populous city in the state of Louisiana. 7 of the top 10 cities in Louisiana by population have skateparks. Bossier may be effectively removed due to its proximity to Shreveport, which has a park. 8 of the top ten cities in Louisiana have parks, when including Bossier’s proximity to Shreveport, and Lafayette is the only city in the top 5 without one. Lafayette, the most populous city in southwest Louisiana, does not have its own public skatepark.
This is particularly disappointing due to Lafayette’s potential position as a cultural leader in Louisiana. It is the most populous southwestern city and has many cultural events that bring travelers from surrounding regions. Lafayette’s lack of a skatepark seems to be an oversight in the city’s obvious desire to cement itself as the cultural gathering place for southwestern Louisiana and its inhabitants.
Crime is, understandably, going to be one of the most important refutations to the need and effectiveness of placing a skatepark in the city’s downtown area. Lafayette’s crime rate is 30% higher than the Louisiana state average(247wallst.com). Louisiana’s crime rate is 5th in the United States(statista.com).
In Bryan Richard Wright’s Skateparks and Crime: Correlations and Causation, the author discusses various skateparks and their effect on crime. The essay views three skateparks from across the country, and evaluates whether they have a positive, negative, or neutral correlation with crime. In its conclusion, Wright states that between FDR skatepark in Philadelphia, Burnside in Portland, and Denver skatepark in Colorado, none had positive correlations with crime.
Further, he writes that a skatepark’s effect on crime is entirely dependent on where it is placed. In his essay, he specifically cited Burnside in Portland. Wright writes: “What Burnside has apparently had a drastic effect is on unreported crime. Though this effect cannot be quantified, research clearly shows that prostitutes, junkies, vagrants and drug dealers formerly occupied the area. It is also clear that they do not currently occupy the area.” It isn’t necessarily the skaters themselves that actively ran out criminal activity, rather it was the repurposing of the land that previously occupied where the skatepark sits currently that made the area less likely to inhabit criminal activity. This, in the eyes of those in favor for the Lafayette skatepark project, is conclusive evidence for the benefit to public safety of constructing a skatepark.
3. Skateboarding Damage, and Prevention Thereof
Lafayette has a history of skateboarding-related damage in public places, resulting in wasted money to repair the damage. In a video for the campus’s website, Greg Zerangue, Associate Director of Public Safety for the University of Louisiana Lafayette said, “We’ve had problems in the Quadrangle, around the Student Union, and pretty much anywhere there are benches or any type of railing or stonework,” he said. “It ranges from scraping paint from benches, to damage that has been estimated as high as $10,000.” In this same video, Zerangue concedes that one of the solutions the university is considering is the construction of a public skatepark in hopes of decreasing skateboarding damage to University property. The decrease in skateboarding damage to other sections of the city is tangible monetary benefit to the skatepark project, and itself would immediately pay for part of the grant for the park’s construction.
4. Culture, Passion, and Other Intangibles
Unquantifiable and ubiquitous, skaters and skate culture leave their mark across every region in the United States. The conscious decision of the Lafayette government to neglect the city’s need and desire for a public skatepark have reaped its consequences, as mentioned earlier in the discussion regarding ULL and its skateboarding damage problem. A less quantifiable consequence, however, is the lost culture and flavor the city could gain from attracting skaters in the region. Lafayette has a history with attracting talented individuals to enrich the city with their arts, a perfect example being the city’s annual celebration of music, artists, and its French heritage, the Festival International de Louisiane. The Festival International is a gathering place for Acadiana’s most talented musicians, chefs, craftsmen, and anyone who wishes to experience the works of these talented individuals. A skatepark built in the heart of downtown Lafayette seems to be perfectly in line with the city’s previous actions to promote arts and culture within its borders.
Our group, BSLS (Businesses and Skaters for Lafayette Skateparks), is an organization dedicated to providing the skateboarding community of Lafayette a safer and less disruptive gathering place to practice their hobby. The skatepark project will be in the downtown Lafayette area, constructing a new public skatepark for the city’s skating population. The project will not only provide a safe space for skaters to gather, but the draw to the area will also increase flow to the nearby businesses. With the cost estimated to be close to $450,000 and 10,000 square feet, the skatepark will draw skaters from around the region to visit Lafayette and not only practice their hobby in a well-built, safe area, the skaters will inevitably patronize surrounding businesses. BSLS believes that this will begin a healthy cycle for Lafayette in which the increased traffic of people will provide local businesses the funds they need to expand and improve their operations, causing additional increases in people wishing to visit and inhabit Lafayette. To act as a center for news, updates, and information regarding the progress of Lafayette’s public skate park, BSLS will create and host a website for the public to obtain all necessary information regarding the project.
In preparation for the grant application and to spread awareness, we have partnered with influential figures in the south Louisiana skateboarding world. With Rukus Lafayette as arguably the center for skate culture in that area, they have gained 7.2 thousand followers on Instagram, being a shop in a city with no public skatepark. The interest and desire exist, it is simply waiting on those with the power to do so to capitalize on it.
Now that the groundwork has been done, BSLS is submitting this grant proposal to the Lafayette Consolidated Government. In addition to some crowdfunding, we believe that our efforts will produce the interest and funds necessary to justify the birth of Lafayette’s public skatepark.
Candidly, the method of constructing a statistical and analytical approach a to profess the need for a skatepark is largely inefficient. The evidence is tangible and real, and can be seen anywhere there is a rail, staircase, or smooth concrete ledge. Every chip of paint on a public bench, destroyed railings on a campus quadrangle, and disgruntled businessman chasing teenagers toting rolling planks of wood off private property scream in favor of the construction of a public skatepark. BSLS hopes that the Lafayette government hears the public’s pleads and continues to further Lafayette’s trajectory to becoming a cultural leader for southwest Louisiana and Acadiana as a whole.