With views of Zakim Bridge and a nearby pedestrian bridge, a new 40,000-square-foot skate park has become something of a paradise for skaters in the East Cambridge and neighboring Boston areas. But the recently opened Lynch Family Skatepark was no overnight project—it took the most recent team’s efforts three-and-a-half years to make it a reality.
Engineering, consultation, and design firm Stantec tapped their Action Sports Group for their niche expertise. After setting up shop on the east coast, the team looked into a skate park in the East Cambridge area that never came to fruition after more than 10 years of efforts. They reached out to Renata von Tscharner, president and founder of the Charles River Conservancy, to ask about the progress of the skate park concept. She shared that the project reached a standstill and she was overjoyed to hear from them; the team flew out to discuss plans and were hired on the spot. They would take on a mission that other groups had given up in the past.
The completion of the Lynch Family Skatepark came with hurdles ranging from building restrictions, to health concerns—the area needed soil testing before any construction began, for example—and of getting approval, but also the creation of the overall design. In the end, those challenges forced Kanten Russell, Designer and Project Manager at the Action Sports Group, and his team to get creative.
“I remember being in a room in the design studio and literally banging my head against the wall trying to figure out ‘how am I going to make this work?’” Russell tells The Creators Project.
After coordinating with the right departments and coming up with design solutions, the team completed the project in 2015. The opening day celebration came to fruition through a partnership between the CRC, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Lynch Foundation, and Vans. Residents watched as Tony Alva and Ray Barbee showed off their skills on the newly-built ramps.
What's special about the final design is that it includes feedback from these community members. Standing room only meetings full of skaters included everyone from five-year-olds to senior citizens. The community’s desires for a skate park reflected design elements that skaters “would’ve embraced back in the ‘90s,” as well as current needs.
The design process required a careful balance between good design and community feedback; not every suggestion was realistic or practical. But at the end of the day, Russell finds that each resident's “specific needs” should inform each design.
“If you don’t put those things in there it’s just gonna be empty,” says Russell. “You’re basically designing something no one wants to ride in. And to me the success of the park is not what we think is good but when you drive by and see everyone using it consistently, that’s when you know you did the right thing.”
As a young skater in San Diego, Russell longed for a skate park in his own neighborhood. Once he became a professional skateboarder, he attended community meetings himself; these were presided by Mike McIntyre, Principal at the Action Sports Group. Russell reflected on that journey with this recent project, realizing it’s “funny how that went full circle.”
While the excitement on opening day was palpable and contagious, Russell is already looking forward to the future—and to potentially bringing skate parks to other states.
“There is a big demand to create more places like that all over the country because the amount of skate parks available for all the skateboarders all over the country, there’s just not enough of them,” says Russell. “We just get a lot of phone calls from a lot of communities, saying ‘we saw the Boston video, how can you help us create something like that here? we really need it.’ I kind of feel like Santa Claus.”
Click here to learn more about Stantec's Action Sports Group.