This past year there seems to have been a string of negative stories attached to Preston’s parks – from the £44,000 Haslam Park upgrade, which we could charitably describe as “baffling”, to the broken glass bottles at Avenham Park, and the general air of disappointment attached to Waverley Park.Advertisement
With this is mind, I thought it’d be a nice change of pace to celebrate one of Preston’s more recent triumphs, the Moor Park Skatepark.
Moor Park Skatepark was built by Freestyle Places, a curious confluence of skateboarders who hold architectural qualifications, though, as with all modern companies, they’re at pains to note their inclusivity with the recently mandated inclusion of BMX riders now on their staff too.
Freestyle Places is known for creating outdoor spaces for the community, which shows given the scale of the Moor Park project; there’s a good surface area allowing for ollies, there are transitions seemingly everywhere, withrollers, height changes, transfers, pool coping (yes, I had to Google some of these terms) – but there’s also more pedestrian areas for those less acrobatically inclined along with easy, open access for spectating.
However, as a 39-year-old man, I really have no business being anywhere near a skate park; just looking at it gives me a gashing skinned knee. Well, skinned everything, truth be told. That said, on our last visit my children of four years and seven years found negotiating the smaller skate area a total joy, maintaining angles on their balance bikes no sane parent should really tolerate. All this as BMXs, skateboarders, scooters and people just outright free-running up concrete weaved between each other seamlessly.
There were those launching themselves triumphantly skyward as though they’d heard of the idea of gravity but weren’t really interested and there were those timidly approaching a gently inclined ramp as though it were booby trapped. Then there was me, the casual observer who probably strained his ankle just walking there.
For the casual observer, there are functional steel benches so you can watch skateboarders attempt flips, then fail the flip, have their skateboard skitter away, dejectedly trundle after board and then attempt the flip again with renewed vigour. Over and over again. It’s hypnotic to watch and a testament to sheer human determination. Granted, as with any area where there’s a preponderance of 10 to 15 year olds, the language can also be a little salty at peak times. That said, I’m sure most of us are alumni of northern comprehensive high schools so it’s nothing we’ve not all heard before.
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Officially launched in September of 2015 – though unofficially launched by plucky youngsters breaching the perimeter fences before the great unveiling – Moor Park Skatepark has remained well attended and well maintained. Whenever community leaders and focus groups highlight the lack of things for kids to do, this is exactly the sort of project they might point to as a success story. However, relative to other towns in the county, Preston was a little behind in getting a dedicated skating facility like this and the project was by no means a certainty.
In its inception, the Preston Skate park project, a community group of upwards of 300 members, began planning and campaigning for the park way back in 2001, liaising with local community groups, attending PACT meetings, submitting planning applications and helping secure lottery funding.
As with most large-scale community projects, it would be logistically easier to find a needle in rocking-horse manure hidden in a haystack that’s made out of haystacks, but the project was eventually approved and initially slated for construction in 2012 to coincide with the Preston Guild celebrations though was delayed until 2015. The project came in with a budget of close to £320,000 but, again, given the size of the undertaking you can really see where the money went, unlike some other recently refurbished Preston parks which shall remain nameless (… Haslam park, it’s Haslam park I’m talking about).
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As Councillor Robert Boswell, who approved the project, said at the time: “The iconic facility will benefit tens of thousands of children, young people and adults of all abilities and ethnic diversities, and provides another visitor attraction to enhance Preston’s offer.”
And he was right; there’s a huge cross section of society from all ages and background that still attend the skate park five years later. In this age of cuts and austerity, it can often be parks and public spaces that can be neglected, which is why it’s so refreshing to see investment like this from time to time.
Preston has some great parks and although pleasant outdoor environments are not always economically quantifiable, the sheer number of clubs, events and groups that regularly meet on Preston’s green spaces makes a powerful social case for continued investment.
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What do you think of Moor Park Skatepark? Let us know in the comments.