The Otley skatepark has become a staple of Wharfe Meadows Park in the historic town of Otley, West Yorkshire. It attracts users of all ages and backgrounds, from youngsters on family days out to long terms park regulars, some of which have used the park since its installation way back in 1999.
Initially a Space to Grow project from Leeds City Council, and spearheaded by Otley Grandmother Betty Bevan, the park was installed to give youngsters a vital hub of youth culture, as previously, there was very little for young people to do in the town that would keep them active and give them the opportunity to make friends and develop their skills.
But of course, no exciting new youth project is without teething pains…
In its earliest incarnation, the park was daubed in graffiti, vandalised, and became a hub for anti-social behaviour, the polar opposite of the park’s intended purpose. Many long term users will remember the “hut”, which served as a shelter from the rain for users, but as a sheltered area to drink and take drugs for vandals and non-users. Every weekend, the keen park user would be wise enough to carry a broom to the park, to sweep up smashed bottles and other debris left over from the night before. Police call outs were common, and users gradually declined as the equipment, despite valiant efforts from the local council, became outdated. Many will fondly remember the old halfpipe, because, as the phrase went “if you can drop in on that, you can drop in on anything.”
Some years later, around 2008, after consultations with the council, Otley went through it’s first major refit. All the old equipment was removed, the “hut” demolished, and two brand new courses (a spine section and street section) along with two new grind rails and a ledge were erected.
Anti-social behaviour declined, and the Skate Park community began to grow, with an influx of users due to the updated equipment. Sk8 Safe first got involved with Otley Skate Park in the summer of 2014, and quickly set to work establishing a strong community of local users. Sarah Agar-Brennan then formed the Otley Skate Park User Group as a means of connecting with young people and establishing what users want from their park, whether that be new equipment or more support from the local community to ensure safe use of the park. Otley’s high number of visitors and growing population required the park to be updated to cater for all rider’s needs. After much hard work and dedication, along with careful guidance from the Sk8 Safe team, The Otley Skate Park User Group secured £10,000 of funding through the Voice Your Choice scheme. This paid for a new quarter pipe, fly off ramp and manual pad, as well as essential maintenance work.
With another successful skate jam this summer, the Otley Skate Park continues to gofrom strength to strength, and the community around it continues to flourish. With a plan to campaign for more funding this year, this can only mean a wider community for the park, and a new generation of users, leaving a legacy for those newly inducted into wheeled sports. Click HERE to see a few clips from Otley Skate Jam 2016!