So I’m back, with a full on new instalment of The Skatepark Situation. A bit of a downer this time, as it’s going to involve SOME complaining. However, there is understanding at the base of these complaints, and as has been said before these articles are merely here to help and inform rather to bitch and moan.

Today’s subject is COVPARK. To those of you who don’t skate, Covpark is the memorial park skatepark.

Steve Joxa Delves - Beanplant Fakie
Steve "Joxa" Delves - Beanplant Fakie

Covpark has long since been a central hub for the Cov skateboarding scene. Built in 2001, it was Coventry’s first skatepark and has since been probably it’s most used. Why is this? Well, it’s in a really nice area of Coventry for a start. It covers 48.5 hectares of land between Cheylesmore, Stivichall, Finham and Earlsdon – 4 areas which, in my own personal opinion and experience, are home to fairly well off families and generally pleasant people. I mean, I grew up in Cheylesmore, and I still live there now. Covpark is my local, and I’m amazingly pleased to have a skatepark 5 minutes from my front door. However (you knew a “however” was coming!), let’s not romanticise the memorial park facility too much. It is, after all, a defining factor in why many of Coventry’s skateboarders want a new skatepark, and also a reason for many people requesting to have a new facility in the memorial park.

Because there is lack of conflict, a lack of unease and a genuinely friendly community at the memorial park, many skateboarders have chosen to skate at Covpark during those hot summer afternoons, as well as many winter weekends. It’s common sense that well rounded individuals would find the memorial park to be an excellent place to go to, and skateboarders are no different. We enjoy the atmosphere, the friendly staff at the cafe, the hard work that the council’s staff do to ensure the park is kept tidy. We dislike the childish graffiti and large amounts of broken glass left by others as much as anyone else who uses the park regularly. The atmosphere, however, is probably the only thing that really keeps people coming back to Covpark. For years people have bitched and moaned about the skatepark’s layout, with Chinese whispers going around about possible plans for council backed extension, demolition and repairs bringing everyone together to prove how much Covpark means to them. In the eyes of the widespread UK skateboarding media, it’s nothing more than a pre-fab built basic skatepark, but to Coventry locals it’s familiar and welcoming.

The only reason people bitch about it so much is that the scene down at the skatepark means so much to them that they want someone to blame for why the actual skatepark doesn’t match the awesome vibe that surrounds the place. The council have come under fire from many people many times before, and whilst, from my understanding, miscommunication and not enough input from skaters was to blame (plans were shown to Jim and Gaz at Ride, but not often enough and certainly not before the final plans were given the go ahead) it’s not just their fault. Not to sound like I’m pointing more fingers at the council, but their decision to get Bendcrete’s involvement didn’t help matters.

Bendcrete as a company aren’t necessarily bad at making skateparks. They can make a good skatepark with the right involvement and with the right people behind the project. However, this rarely happens in the process of building your average skatepark. Obviously council members are involved, and seeing as your average council member doesn’t skateboard, and from my own experience many of Bendcrete’s reps don’t either, of course something like Covpark was going to get built. So, are Covpark’s flaws the council’s fault or Bendcrete’s? What about the skaters? Well, if you ask me, it’s everyone’s fault. It’s the council’s fault for not researching skateboarding that little bit more, it’s Bendcrete’s fault for not pushing the skater’s viewpoint onto their designs more, and for using pre-fab ramps (more on this later on) instead of other methods made popular by better park building companies, it’s our fault for not getting more involved and getting in on sessions where Jim and Gaz saw the plans, and also it’s our fault for continuously bitching about the place repeatedly without physically doing something to change what we have.

The point is that council’s make mistakes, contractors make mistakes and so do skateboarders. Unless you’re willing to actually learn from those mistakes and actively make a change, what good is it going to do pointing fingers at the council and complaining. Right now I’ll say I’m guilty of this, as well as every single one of you, but in future when a great opportunity comes around, get involved and make the council take note. The more actively involved you get and the more you stand up and say “No, listen, it should be done this way”, the less likely it’ll be that the next batch of future Coventry skateparks end up like Covpark.

Tez Aldersley - Nosegrind
Tez Aldersley - Nosegrind

With that in mind and with the blood boiling from discussing our concerns for Covpark, it’s about time that we investigate the problem with Covpark’s actual construction, and the way the maintenance on the skatepark was handled. Last year during the winter, Covpark’s mini ramp and 5 foot quarter pipes began to sink into the ground. Now this is mainly down to the pre-fab construction of the ramps. The very fact that they are separate entities that have been concreted into place means they’re likely to come loose and sink. Some of the ramps at Wednesfield plaza in Wolverhampton have suffered a similar fate, it’s just the way pre-fab stuff reacts to soggy ground during the winter months. I made a formal complaint about Covpark’s situation to Dave Lewis from Coventry City Council, who in turn met me in person at Covpark with a council playground inspector, and later again with a Bendcrete rep. The playground inspector and Dave were highly helpful, and even said that council employees needed to be educated on skatepark construction and what constitutes as “unsafe” within those boundaries.

Excellent. A step forward, you might say. The Bendcrete rep went through the process of looking at each ramp that had sunk, and suggested a complicated process of using a “jack” method to lift the ramps up and pack the bottom with concrete. He also suggested a “cheap” alternative which was to angle grind the concrete on the floor so it ran smoothly onto the ramps. During the conversation Dave said that the best option would be to do things properly, but seemed doubtful about whether the council’s would pay Bendcrete to repair Covpark. By the time I came back down the park to skate when it was dry (about 2 weeks after my meeting with Dave and the Bendcrete rep), the problem had been somewhat fixed, through concrete applied to the bottom of the transitions to join the floor to the ramps. Needless to say, this looked like a modified idea of the “cheap” repair that Mr. Bendcrete had mentioned.

The warning that came with using the “cheap” method was that in time, the same thing would happen again, and that eventually it would have to be fixed properly. Well… can you guess where I’m going with this? Check this out:

Photo0079Photo0080Photo0081

Here are 3 photos I took yesterday of some of the concrete panels at Covpark. I was told about this by a local lad who skates Covpark a lot more than I do. The young skater I talked to said the ramp had been hard to skate as the bump from the sunken ramp meeting the floor had taken away some of his speed, which is pretty much what had lead me to make a formal complaint about Covpark last year.

Now this all seems very negative. Sorry about that, but this right here is an example of why things with Covpark went wrong in the first place. Get the right people involved and do things properly, and stuff like this won’t come back to bite you at a later date. In the right hand portrait photo, you can see bits of concrete breaking off from the ramp it’s attached to, which in turn will lead to someone taking a harsh slam when their wheel gets caught on the rubble. With a skatepark that means so much to so many people, a genuine and immense effort must come from everyone who uses it and those who ensured its construction to make sure that we can keep skating it and keep it in our scene for as long as possible. This kind of effort should go into any skatepark for a large user group (which Coventry, in my opinion, has always had!).

Cheers to Garry Jones for the skate photography.