Holy halfpipe: Western Washington's top 10 skateparks
A 20-something skateboarding journalist gives nods to the best skateparks around Seattle and Western Washington.
Special to The Seattle Times
Northwest Travel Guides
A basketball court in a park is just a basketball court. Sure, you can add a nice glass backboard and paint some crisp lines. Maybe add a drinking fountain or two. Some metal bleachers. Done. It's the same thing for a tennis court, soccer field, baseball diamond and so on. While it's no fun to play on a field littered with potholes and goose poop, the basic design parameters remain the same.
Not so with skateboard parks. Straight out of the brains of the Northwest's most brilliant design-and-build crews, the prized parks feel infinitely different, while still maintaining a high level of functionality. The feeling of a great park is almost intangible.
However, for every top skatepark, there are dozens of forgettable — and sometimes unrideable — sad patches of expensive concrete spread across city and county parks, poured by Bob's Sidewalks or some other decidedly non-skateboarding construction crew.
But every once in a while, all of the elements come together and another small town or nondescript suburb becomes an unlikely entry into the anthology of magical skateparks.
Although it's impossible to empirically rank "amount of fun," this list is based on firsthand — and sometimes painful — knowledge, along with a healthy dose of popular opinion from area skateboarders. Buttery-smooth concrete walls hand-troweled to perfection, metal ledges placed with the care of an art curator — these are Western Washington's skateboarding holy places:
1 Orcas Island
Mount Baker Road, just east of Eastsound
Ferry, paddle or swim your way to this island paradise. Perfectly designed and silky smooth, this concrete bowl — officially known as Scott Stamnes Memorial Skatepark — is everything a skateboard park should be. Built in 2002 by the collective genius of Seattle's Grindline Skateparks and Oregon's Dreamland Skateparks with the support of island advocates Warren Miller and Hobie Alter, this is the region's ultimate destination park. Pack your swim trunks and a tent. Skate, swim, repeat.
2 Battle Ground
East Main Street at Fairgrounds Avenue
The unlikely location of the town of Battle Ground, in Clark County, is home to one of the largest and best skateparks in the state. With a mix of fun street features along with a deep flowing concrete bowl with an "over vert" cradle that lets skaters carve nearly upside down, here's a rare example of a park that actually has something fun for both street and bowl skateboarders. Just look out for the drool puddles.
188th Street Northeast and 59th Street Northeast
Is that a lump in your throat? Are your knees knocking a bit? Be careful what you wish for, because one of these days you might actually have to skate it. The giant full-pipe in the middle of the deep Arlington bowl is one of those things. Skateboarders use to have to hunt through drainage systems and construction sites to skate these tubular behemoths. Now, they can just go to Arlington. You might want to bring some pads. Oh, and a helmet — definitely a helmet.
4 Highland Skate Plaza
14224 N.E. Bel-Red Road, Bellevue
Mixing features found on a common city street — ledges, stairs and rails — with non-street obstacles like ramps and bowls is often like mixing pizza and sushi. Both delicious in their own right, but combine them and you've got a stomach ache. Rather than trying to walk the fine line between the two disciplines, the Highland Skate Plaza does one thing really, really well — make street skateboarders happy. With perfectly set rails and ledges, this Bellevue plot is the promised land for those weary of dealing with rough ground and angry security guards.
5 Port Angeles
East Fourth Street at South Race Street
Leave the hiking shoes at home on your next trip to the Olympic Peninsula and scale a few concrete cliffs in Port Angeles instead. Built in 2005 by Oregon-based Dreamland Skateparks, this playful spot features three different bowls of varying depths and contours for different ability levels and styles. Stop by the equally amazing Port Townsend skatepark for a weekend doubleheader.
Milltown Commons Skatepark, 23rd Avenue and Milton Way
What? You've never hung out in Milton? Well, maybe it's time to change that because its 10,000-square-foot skatepark is a thing of beauty. With a 9-foot deep end and a doorway to carve over, the Milton bowl is all about speed. Numerous quick corners and slick pool coping round out this Tacoma-area gem.
28430 N.E. Big Rock Road
It's true. Size isn't everything. And Duvall's Jeanne Baldwin Memorial Skatepark proves it. Smaller than most of the other parks on the list, Duvall is worth a visit due to the perfect pool replica, complete with shallow-end stairs to carve or grind over. Watch metal trucks spark on the exposed aggregate coping (edge) of the bowl.
The street course isn't too shabby either, with some really fun features, including a perfectly placed rock, and grass gaps to pop over.
Tillicum Park, 549 Tillicum Lane
Long after the "Twilight" crowds have gone home, Bella and friends can grind this fun little bowl and street line combo right into the next millennium. Notable features include beautiful mosaic tile work in the bowl, a free-floating artsy quarter pipe and brick banks. Built by Grindline with a healthy dose of community spirit, this new park can't help but be fun.
9 Marginal Way
East Marginal Way and South Hanford Street, Seattle
"Raw" is the word that first comes to mind in regards to the Marginal Way skatepark, under the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle's Sodo District. Built section by section by skateboarders frustrated with Seattle's lack of skateparks, this ongoing project is a tough spot to skate — steep walls and quick transitions make every run an adventure.
10 Carnation Valley Memorial Park, 3810 Stossel Ave.
Yet another inspired skatepark in a small town, Carnation's bowl is often eerily empty. It's like having Disneyland all to yourself. Basically one giant bowl with varying walls and depths, this park doesn't lack for speed thrills. Simply drop in and hang on. The over-vertical clamshell (picture a giant concrete mollusk) is the most notable feature. Bonus: Barbecue pits surround the peaceful park for some family fun.
If you want to keep the good times rolling, these skateparks are completely worthy of a day trip: Port Townsend, Bainbridge Island, Mukilteo YMCA, Lower Woodland Park (Seattle), Crossroads (Bellevue), Bellingham Phase II, Sumner, Vancouver East and East Hill Skatepark in Kent.
When he's not skateboarding, surfing or snowboarding, John Kinmonth is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.