Long Beach has long touted its bike friendliness, but Tony Hawk Foundation organizers say the city is just as important of a beacon for skateboarding — maybe even more so.
From noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, at Green Acres Estate in Beverly Hills, THF’s Stand Up For Skateparks 2012 again will lean on Long Beach as an example of what is the right way for cities to integrate skateboarding culture.
“It’s really a model city in terms of its leadership with embracing skateboarding — recognizing youth have chosen this, and providing safe places to ride,” said Miki Vuckovich, executive director of THF.
During the 2010 Stand Up For Skateparks event, donors raised $45,000 toward the McBride Park skatepark, which officials celebrated with a grand opening this February — including skateboarding legend Tony Hawk himself.
“For this weekend, we assembled a video with interviews of local Long Beach kids, building up to McBride and why it was important for it to happen, and then the video ends with the grand opening,” Vuckovich said.
The video and honoring Long Beach efforts is a way to cap THF’s involvement with McBride and to show the many donors that their efforts are working, he added. Specifically, THF will congratulate ASK (Action Sports Kids) Foundation as having one of the nation’s more successful skatepark programs — the group, headed by former City Councilman Mike Donelon, has worked as a conduit between children and the city for skatepark designs and programs.
“A lot of this success is giving kids a voice and giving them some pride in ownership (with the skateparks),” Donelon said. “It has a huge impact on local youth. Now, we’re even seeing a benefit to the local economy (because of the national attention McBride has been getting). Every time I go out there is a skater from an entirely different city.”
THF officials said the key to using McBride and Long Beach is to note the amount of give and take with youth skaters — they were included during the design phase and all the way through the project.
“It’s an excellent street-plaza design, with just enough transitions to make it well-rounded,” Tony Hawk said in a statement. “It has something for all skill levels, and it is exactly the type of project, area and advocacy that we want to get involved with. It should be an example for other communities to follow.”
Donelon specifically said he enjoys pointing out statistics the city drew up in 2009 for the Michael Green Skatepark at 14th Street Park. For that park, crime fell between 2003 and 2008 in the immediate area around the park — drug-related incidents by 60.9%, violent crime by 29.3% and overall incidents by 22.8%. He said similar effects could be seen at other city skateparks.
“I know kids who have been in gangs, or even been in jail, but now they’re helping kids out there and being role models,” Donelon said. “It’s something I see every day.”
According to officials, about 800,000 children have used skateparks in the city, which has eight locations. Vuckovich pointed out that his foundation wants to see numbers in other cities reach that — currently there are 3,500 skateparks nationwide for 6.6 million skaters. In comparison, there are 100,000 baseball fields.
“We (ASK Foundation) don’t have a program that sits them down and tells them what to do, but we do try to show them other things and how they can get involved,” Donelon said.
With very little money left to build more, Donelon said that type of outreach is key, but it also will be good to celebrate the success of McBride.
For more information on the Tony Hawk Foundation, visit www.tonyhawkfoundation.org.