Tom Snape, fakie five-o, Lincoln Square. Photo: Andrew Mapstone.
Words by Nat Kassel.
Melbourne shredders suffered a major blow earlier this year when the council spent a whopping $450,000 making Lincoln Square unskateable. For decades, it was the city’s best street plaza; the venue for some serious tricks and seriously good times over the years. The loss of Lincoln was a slap in the face for Melbourne’s (and Australia’s) skate community, and although some of the locals attempted to make do, most people are still pretty dirty about the council’s decision to destroy it.
However, last week, the City of Melbourne released a draft of the Skate Melbourne Plan, which could almost be interpreted as an apology. It’s a comprehensive, 45-page document that outlines their proposal of “providing a diverse range of high quality spaces for skaters to hone their skills.” And while the document is super long and a little bit vague at times, the plan for Melbourne’s skate infrastructure is unlike anything else that exists in Australia at the moment.
In addition to upgrading the inner city’s skateparks (Riverside and Kensington), the City of Melbourne plans to build street-style skate spots in shared public spaces across the city, in a similar vein to new spots at Drummond Street in Carlton and the Docklands. Melbourne veterans Anthony Mapstone and Ben Harriss, along with young NZ shredder Casey Foley, have long been in talks with the council, convincing them of the need to build obstacles that will appeal to street skaters. And to the council’s credit, it seems they’ve been listening. The report says:
“Whilst important for some skating styles, dedicated skate parks will not solve the needs of all skaters. Through community engagement it is clear there is demand for a range of skate infrastructure, and it’s important to re-iterate that styles of skating are diverse and skaters themselves enjoy a diversity of experiences.”
Photo: Casey Foley.
The plan references skate facilities from France, Denmark and the USA, which are quite original, both in the types of obstacles they offer and in a town planning sense. It must be the first time an Australian council has acknowledged that building a 14-foot bowl won’t satisfy the needs of not only tech dawgs, but the vast majority of skateboarders. Councils have long been ignoring the fact that no matter how many skateparks there are, we will always need street spots.
Melbourne skate legend Morgan Campbell says although he hasn’t had a detailed look at the plans yet, it seems the council are doing the right thing:
“I actually got an email this morning from my friend Gustav Eden, who’s involved in city planning and similar projects in Malmo in Sweden. He was saying that there’s a lot of great material [in the Skate Melbourne Plan] and they’ve done some pretty thorough research.”
“It’s nice to know,” says Morgan.
Though Campbell didn’t have time to get involved in the consultation, he was stoked when he saw that Mappy, Ben Harriss and Casey Foley are informing the council. “They’d say the right things. They’d have the right perspective. I mean it’s pretty simple, man. People just like to skate real street spots.”
Callum Paul, ollie up to gap to frontside noseslide. Photo: Bryce Golder.
According to Graham Porteous, one of the council representatives who is helping to orchestrate the project, skateboarding’s inclusion in the 2020 Olympics is partly why the City of Melbourne is suddenly taking skateboarding seriously.
“We recognise that skating is no longer an underground subculture,” says Graham. “Skating is a legitimate form of recreation that is popular around the world, and it will become an Olympic Sport in 2020.”
I asked Morgan Campbell what he thought. He said skateboarding’s inclusion in the Olympics was a “sad day”, but reasoned, “I accept that there’s going to be a lot of good things that come from it.”
Another factor is that skating is becoming so popular. In Victoria, there are now more kids going to skateparks than playing footy, basketball or swimming.
The council even checked out the Melbourne coverage in Slam’s winter issue;
"Within the skate community, Melbourne is a very popular skating destination and was recently featured in the July 2016 issue of Slam Skateboarding Magazine [cited by Anthony Mapstone] as 'the best city for skateboarding in Australia.'"
Simon Frazzetto, fakie pop shove-it. Photo: Bryce Golder.
While it’s unclear at this point what exactly will be built in Melbourne, the plan is overall, very reassuring for skaters.
The City of Melbourne is taking feedback on the Skate Melbourne Plan until December 5. You can check out the draft of the full plan here, while the shorter version is here and you can provide your feedback right here.