Defending the interests of the city’s 20,000 young skateboarders, Matthew Johnston is four years into a public fight to get the Parks Department to build a citywide network of safe, centrally located, well-designed skate facilities. He’s helped put together a plan for the construction of a network of skate spots around the city. And he’s published a citizen’s guide to the tedious, time-sucking public process at www.seattleskateparks.org
All the effort, he acknowledges, has met with precious little progress. There are fewer skateparks now than when he got involved four years ago. The Seattle Center tore down the city’s largest park in January, and the only remaining park, in Ballard, is the size of a basketball court. The citywide skateparks plan is long on ideas and short on money.
Too bad, because the city’s parks accommodate the sports more people played two decades ago. While the number of kids in organized athletics dropped by 10 percent between 1995 and 2003, the number of skateboarders doubled.
“I drive all the way to Ballard to find [the skatepark] is full,” says Johnston, “and I pass all these tennis and basketball courts along the way.”