The idea of privately owned skate parks is not a new thing. As long as people have needed a place to shred, there has been motivation to open a park. I’m not here to talk about the history of skateboarding, or even to relate skate culture to libertarianism, but I want to make the case in favor of private ownership over state/public ownership of parks.
1. People who care are in control
When was the last time your parks and rec officer tried to 180 into a fakie kickflip? When was the last time you bought new wheels from your local city council member? The first problem to address with public ownership of parks is the general lack of understanding and interest in the skate community. Filled with budgets to manage and people to rob, your local politician simply does not have the incentive to care about the skate subculture.
On the other hand, through private ownership the park is built and operated by people who share the passion with the patrons of the park, people who care. If the owner of your park skates the park, he has a direct incentive to maintain quality and customer satisfaction.
2. Direct communication
Imagine you’re having a skate session with some friends and you notice your favorite grind rail is starting to rust. If the city owns the park you have to call up some office, get redirected to some intern and maybe after filling out an official form a Parks and Rec agent will check out the problem in a few months. Fortunately, through the efficiency of free market private property, if the park is privately owned you just have to skate over to the front desk or at most call the owner directly. With private ownership we cut out lots of hassle and as demonstrated by point 1, the proper incentives mean the problem is addressed much more quickly.
This direct communication advantage doesn’t stop there. The easy approachability of the skate park owner means much more involvement with the community. All the worried mothers can douse their fears just with a short conversation over park safety. The owner could easily host meetings to directly communicate with customers and the local families. Private ownership leads to more community involvement – kind of funny to think about.
Private ownership is no guarantee that the park will last, but being subject to political power puts a public skate park at risk. Greatly outnumbered and unorganized skaters and skate culture are not political forces with much pull. A minority (many of which aren’t even voting age) of people against a highly funded political lobby group is really at a disadvantage when the city considers building a new housing project over the local park.
The private park will stay as long as there is money to be made. Because of profit incentives and direct communication with the public, the park owner is much more likely to fight against the government’s fun killing hands.
Profit incentives leads to quality control, (a dead horse beaten by the other 3 points) but profit has many other positive effects. People are needed to maintain and regulate safety of the park which means lots of awesome jobs for local kids. An opportunity to pursue their passion and get real world job experience is something lots of young punk skaters miss out on.
The possibility of sponsorship from local skate shops creates an environment of for-profit skateboarding entrepreneurship. Being able to advertise in the park benefits the local economy and helps to further advance skate culture along with the market.
Profit and passion are things that should be considered when evaluating private vs public parks. The case against public skate parks is driven by knowing where the right incentives are. And when it comes to ownership, privatization is like a 360 hardflip compared to the flatground ollie that is public ownership.