Looking at the site layout for the new skateboarding park planned for the southeast corner of Durham Central Park, given the grade changes and the ample number of stairs, your first impression might be, "This looks like the Durham Civic Center plaza."
You wouldn't be that far off. And given that that plaza (like the CCB Plaza downtown) is often full of skateboarders getting their thrills on the stairs, think of it as a sign of what skaters are looking for in a public park.
A centerpiece of the design are three stairwells -- ranging from 3-5 steps for beginners to 8-12 stairs for advanced skaters -- to give enthusiasts of the sport a central, city-approved location to skate. And the resemblance to the places that draw skaters everywhere is certainly no accident.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Brad Siedlecki of Pillar Design -- a design firm whose principal is credited on its web site's testimonials as having co-designed the world's first skateplaza -- expressed excitement at the chance to build a skate park in a truly urban setting in Durham, allowing a true "urban plaza" design as opposed to the designs used in other cities' more-suburban locations.
"I've done well over 150 parks in my eight-year stint of doing this, and this is one of the true downtown parks," Siedlecki said. "There aren't many cities who have done this."
The urban setting also has another advantage over the city park locations used in other towns. While Siedlecki admitted that some of those sites had found their skateparks hit with graffiti or vandalism, he noted that the downtown location had two pluses: more eyes on the street 24/7, and its location across the street from the new Durham P.D. District 5 substation.
Besides the stairwells, the park will feature a "pit" modeled on a "legitimate backyard pool" and a covered ramada for spectators.
In the southeastern corner, Siedlecki envisions an interchangeable mix of public art and "skateable art" -- the latter of which could serve both aesthetic and recreation functions.
About twenty-five residents -- mostly skaters, with some Durham Central Park reps -- attended the meeting Tuesday night, and the group was generally enthusiastic about the design under consideration.
One skate enthusiast noted that Raleigh had held the groundbreaking for its skate park this week (a project Pillar is also involved in), and asked if it was really true that theirs would be done in a few months, while Durham's would take much longer to open.
Beth Timson from the City's Parks & Rec department noted that one of the challenges that would "slow us down" was the requirement that the project develop a site plan and go through the under-scrutiny development review process before work could begin.
Siedlecki noted that he had intentionally recommended very different designs for the skateparks in Raleigh and Durham to offer skaters in the region two different types of facilities.
Timson also noted that a change in state law a few years back had opened the door for municipalities to build skate parks, by allowing "at your own risk" signage to release cities from liability for facilities such as these.