Not long ago, the former tennis courts in McCook Field’s Claridge Park sat empty. The nets had been removed, and the grass growing in the cracked surface was almost tall enough to require mowing. With City resources stretched thin, the rectangular patch of pavement may have continued to wait for repairs indefinitely if not for the keen eye of local skateboard enthusiast David Schweitzer. He saw potential in the disused amenity, and in the spring of 2020, he approached the Planning Division to see if there was a way for the City to allow him to start a do-it-yourself (DIY) skate park on the property. With all of the determination and enthusiasm you would expect from someone who regularly launches themselves into the air on four wheels and a piece of wood, David led his project through an unprecedented process with the City to realize his vision. Today, Dayton’s skateboarding community has an official place to call home. The City’s first skate park is already seeing a great turnout, but the venue is still in its early phases of construction. David has plans for expansion and, importantly, a network of supportive skateboarders all willing to bring their skills to the table.
- David comes to the Planning Division with a list of several possible former tennis and basketball courts that appear to be underutilized and have the features necessary for a skate park. Staff works with the Department of Public Works and determines that the former tennis courts at Claridge Park may be an appropriate location. The five-acre park sits in an area that is largely industrial, however, a number of residences sit directly to the north and the east.
- In arguably the most important step of the process, David connects with Jerry Bowling III, the President of the McCook Field Neighborhood Association. Together, David and Jerry reach out to the residents of the area to explain the project, answer questions, and ensure that the neighborhood supports the plan before moving forward.
- The skateboarding community does a cleanup of Claridge Park, gathering more than 40 bags of debris.
- The skate park is named Claridge Park DIY and gets an Instagram account. @claridgeparkdiy
- David creates plans, renderings, and a budget.
- To facilitate funding and legal obligations, David partners with The Collaboratory, also known as Involvement Advocacy, a nonprofit organization incorporated in Illinois and registered in Ohio. The Collaboratory hires David as an unpaid project manager for the DIY skate park and will be the signatory on all permits and agreements necessary to satisfy City requirements for the project.
- To comply with the City’s Zoning Code, the skate park requires Conditional Use and Variance approval from the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals. During the public process, concerns are raised regarding noise, hours of operation, and parking. David explains that skate parks create less noise than a little league game, and skateboards are quieter on smooth, paved surfaces than they are on sidewalks. Hours of operation will be in line with City park hours, which Public Works defines as from dawn to dusk. Parking is generally not permitted on Lamar, however there is a parking lot in Claridge Park at the southwest corner. Board members are in support of this resident-driven DIY skate park, citing the benefit to the immediate residents and youth in the area.
- The project receives the necessary approvals to move forward. To address the myriad legal and logistical issues of a nonprofit building a DIY skate park on City-owned property, a condition of approval is to put in place a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The Collaboratory and the City prior to any construction. The MOU, reviewed and agreed to by both parties, establishes the framework by which the construction and maintenance of the skate park will take place.
- Skateboarding debuts at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Phase 1 of construction began during the Fall of 2021
- Skating commences the moment the concrete has cured.
- Word spreads about the new DIY skate park through social media, the local newspaper, and an interview with Dayton 24/7 Now.
- Construction continues and is aided by fellow skateboarding enthusiasts, both local and visiting. Also on hand are members of the Cement Masons Apprentice Program, who have been cutting out the surface cracks on the courts and then filling them with concrete.
Dave Schweitzer (center) stands in the skate park with instructors from the Cement Masons Apprentice Program
- Construction will continue in phases as resources and materials become available.
- David sees bringing in local artists to contribute their talents and add to the uniqueness of the park.
The possibility of building a skate park within city limits had been part of staff discussion for several years but, due in part to changes in budget and available resources, had not yet come to fruition. This partnership between residents, local organizations, and the City has activated a dormant area of Claridge Park and stands as an example of what can be accomplished through dedication and cooperation.
If you have any thoughts or questions about Claridge Park DIY, please contact Jen Hanauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 333-2005