Poplar Bluff Skate Plaza
- Need: Slow the increasing rates of childhood obesity stemming, in part, from a lack of physical activity.
- Intervention: Creating a youth-oriented downtown skate park to build a culture of daily physical activity in the rural community of Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
- Results: Increased physical activity opportunities for youth in the far southeast corner of Missouri, especially for those not typically involved in organized sports.
In July 2012 the Parks and Recreation (Park & Rec) Department of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, dedicated a 19,000 square foot skate park and pedestrian plaza in the heart of downtown Poplar Bluff. Known as Skate Plaza," also providing room for spectators, and green space for work breaks and lunch gatherings.
The vision for the park, ten years in the making, began when skateboarders approached Clark Allen, director of Poplar Bluff's Park & Rec Department, requesting an official skate park since skateboarders were using public curbs, ledges, ramps, and stairs to hone their skills.
According to Allen, kids who are a part of the skateboarding culture are often not part of organized sports. This leaves the community of 17,000 residents without support for those choosing skateboarding as a primary physical activity.
Climbing childhood obesity rates also drove the need to find alternative outlets for physical activity for all youth. The community decided to apply for a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health's (MFH) Healthy and Active Communities initiative, a program working to address childhood obesity and fitness.
The $450,000 price tag of the skate park was eventually funded by:
- A $250,000 Healthy and Active Communities grant from the MFH
- The Poplar Bluffs Parks and Recreation Department
- Private donations
Working with professional sport designers, the Park & Rec Department made sure the skate park would be appealing to all levels of skaters and even able to hold skate competitions and other events.
Goals of the skate park:
- Promote wellness
- Build and strengthen community
- Counteract negative stereotypes of skateboarders and the skating culture
A skate park video including video of the professional skateboarders on grand opening day promotes the park:
- Accommodation of all skateboarding skill levels
- Accessible location to reduce transportation challenges
- A facility that accommodates other events in addition to skate competitions
- Room for spectators
- Attractive green space for locals to gather for a break or lunch
- Traffic draw for downtown merchants
- Promotion of lifelong wellness activities allowing youths who skate an opportunity for daily physical activity
- Fair weather park use by 15 to 25 kids during non-school hours
- Inclement weather park use by a smaller, dedicated skate group
- Used mostly by skateboarders in the 13- to 15-year-old range
- There have been several skate competitions and exhibitions organized by the youth skaters
- The Park & Rec Department also requested exhibitions to coincide with a downtown festival
- Though no official data has been gathered, park director Allen suspects some of the downtown merchants, especially those who sell food and soda, have seen an increase in foot traffic from skaters
- Substantially fewer complaints from the business community to the Park & Rec Department regarding skateboarders skating in dangerous, non-designated locations.
In the fall of 2012, the Poplar Bluff Skate Plaza was featured in NRHA Rural Roads.
Some of the obstacles to building the skate park:
- Original site choice failed to materialize
- Approved grant funding delays
- Failed tax credit request
- Empty downtown underground petroleum storage tank removal
Only small challenges have been encountered in operating the park since its inception:
- Early graffiti issues lessened with quick removal by Park & Rec Department
- Presence of nearby public firehouse probably decreased the park as an afterhours hang-out
- Skate park marketing requires different approach than marketing for more mainstream sports, such as baseball.
- Those involved with planning and development of the skate park emphasize this type of project requires early involvement by the people who will use the park
- Community buy-in helps overcome unforeseen obstacles
- Perseverance with clear and frequent communication is necessary for completion
- Multipurpose design allows alternative use for other events such as downtown festivals if skateboarding popularity wanes
- Skateable art, not used in this park's design, might increase the level of attractiveness and interest
- Appreciation that social media marketing by skateboarders themselves gets the word out
Contact InformationClark Allen, Director
Parks and Recreation Department, City of Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Children and youth
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
November 15, 2012
Date updated or reviewed
April 16, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Poplar Bluff Skate Plaza [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/716 [Accessed 20 March 2023]
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