‘Dangerous’: Skaters slam council over park maintenance

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Talking points

  • Skaters in St Kilda are angry at the City of Port Phillip after routine maintenance works have made the surface of the skatepark ‘slippery’ and ‘grippy’ which has led to one skater injured.
  • The issue has become widespread and plagued skateparks in Victoria, NSW, ACT, and Adelaide.
  • According to Western Sydney University, Australia has over 1350 skate parks listed on the Australian skate park register.
  • Skatepark builder Steve Kelly said the industry has a maintenance skill shortage.

Skaters at a popular skate park in St Kilda are furious at the local council after they claim costly maintenance works have ruined the iconic park and made it ‘dangerous’ for skaters, an issue experts warn is plaguing skate parks across the country.

The City of Port Phillip carried out $60,000 worth of maintenance works in late November at the beachside St Kilda skate park located on Marine Parade to repair “damaged tiles, chipped joints, cracks, and general wear and tear”.

Local skater Junior Pene is furious at the council after maintenance works have left the St Kilda skatepark in a worse condition. Credit: Joe Armao

Since its opening in 2013, the $1.6 million St Kilda skate park has been a mainstay for professional skaters, and hosted international skateboarding completion, the Vans Park Series, in 2016. The skate park has also welcomed the likes of Olympic gold medallist skateboarder Keegan Palmer.

St Kilda local and former state champion skateboarder Junior Pene said he was flung off his skateboard after doing a routine trick at the weekend after an adjustment to the coping, a metal tube used to grind and do tricks on a curved element like a bowl.

“That has never happened to me once in 10 years,” Pene, 47, said, who was the 2016 Victoria’s Masters Bowl Skateboarding champion. “The surface was so incredibly grippy, it was dangerous and my front wheels hit the coping so hard it pitched me right off my skateboard.”

Pene, who advocated for the skate park to be built alongside other locals and skaters, said the sealant on the concrete and the resetting of the coping has ruined the park.

Other skaters who went to St Kilda skate park have also experienced safety issues with the park since the maintenance works were carried out, Pene said.

“Other skaters said it was initially so incredibly slippery it was like glass,” he said. “You’ll see accidents that have never been seen before. The kids won’t go there to skate.”

Port Phillip council mayor Heather Cunsolo said the council did not receive any complaints from skaters and it would be undertaking an inspection of the skate park.

“Council officers checked their records today and couldn’t find any St Kilda skate park complaints logged by skaters,” Cunsolo said.

“The skate park is inspected every week as part of regular maintenance of our open spaces. It is also subject to a detailed audit every three years to inform our planned renewal schedule. As we take safety very seriously, we are organising another inspection as soon as possible.”

Australia has more than 1300 skateparks and experts in the skatepark building industry say there is a skill shortage in maintaining them.Credit: Joe Armao

Cunsolo also said the same contractor carried out similar works using specialist skate park products in 2019-20 “to a high standard”.

Poor maintenance issues are plaguing skate parks in Victoria, NSW, ACT, and Adelaide.

In Castlemaine, the Mount Alexander Shire council used anti-graffiti paint on the Castlemaine skate park to deter vandals, which caused slippery and dangerous conditions.

In Bateau Bay, NSW, one skater on Facebook said the resealing of the big bowl by the Central Coast council at the BATO Yard skate park “looks like it has been carried out by a drunken blind man”.

Skate park builder and skater Steve Kelly, who runs Grind Project, a skate park building company, said maintenance issues were becoming more common across Australia as many ageing skate park facilities were coming to the end of their lifespan.

According to Western Sydney University, Australia has more than 1350 skate parks listed on the Australian skate park register.

Kelly said the sport becoming mainstream and skate park facilities more ‘family-friendly’ spaces for passive viewing, encouraged local governments to look after skate parks.

“It’s a good thing that councils are maintaining skate parks, but finding the right people for maintenance works is the real issue,” he said.

Darren White, another skate park designer and skater, agreed a lack of expertise in skate park maintenance has left a vacuum.

White runs Baseplate, a skateboard design company, and he has been in the industry since 1995 working internationally in places such as Hong Kong, Germany and the US. He said contractors for maintenance jobs should be skaters themselves.

“The level of understanding you need to fix a skate park and understand it is that you have to ride it,” White said.

“It might look smooth and bright and shiny but doesn’t mean it’s good to skate and safe to skate.”

Both Kelly and White said as builders and designers they did not have time to contribute to maintaining skate parks.

“It’s an entirely separate business that’s hard work and not really fun,” White said.

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