Will Dallas Finally Get Its Own Skatepark? An Interview With the Founder of "Skateparks For Dallas".

Any skater who has grown up here in the Dallas area has undoubtedly noticed our lack of a public skatepark. The only thing that even comes close is Lakeland Hills Park (St. Francis) - a place where cookie cutter designs meet theft. (A quarter of the boxes have been stolen.)

This all seems pretty strange when you think about all of the surrounding cities that have giant cement parks. Most of the suburban towns either have a giant skatepark or are planning to build one. That is, except Dallas, the most populated city in North Texas. With all of that said, I was pleased to hear about a Dallas local named Clinton Haley who is trying to change all of that.

We met via my contact form via Nick DiCarlo, one of the site's digital supporters. After a few back and forths through email over the past 2 weeks or so, I asked to interview him about this amazing project. He accepted and after getting all of my questions answered, I'm even more excited about this project! Let's dive in.

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What originally got you into skateboarding?

When I was 14 years old, my friend Jason built a halfpipe in his backyard. He gave me my first board and some used knee pads. We had a lot of fun, but I didn’t really get back into it until 3 years ago when my 6-year-old son and I started to skate and wanted to know where else we could skate besides our front sidewalk. We googled local concrete skateparks and found several in the suburbs, but none in Dallas. At least weekly, we have been making the 30-45 minute drive to these parks and having so much fun. Older boys teach my son tricks and give encouragement. We get to do what we love and catch up with friends we have made over the last several years.
— CH
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Dallas skaters have been waiting a long time for a legitimate park. What made you take on the project of getting a new park built in Dallas?

Since 2014, my son Travis and I have met and skated with so many amazing people in the Dallas skateboarding community. I saw how skateboarding helped kids set goals and get so stoked once they achieved them. I saw the confidence that skateboarding gave people, providing a foundation on which to build other aspects of life. Yet, most of these positive experiences weren’t in our own city, but in the surrounding suburbs. I thought that with Dallas’ rich history of skateboarding and the city wanting to remain competitive in general on a national level, the city needed to get on board with creating a modern skatepark for its citizens to enjoy—to allow our inner-city kids (and adults) to participate and benefit from this amazing experience that is skateboarding.
— CH
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What’s the process been like getting Skateparks For Dallas off the ground?

It has been a labor of love. When you are coming at something from that perspective, then it’s fun, it’s a learning experience, and hey, if it works out, all the better. I feel that for all that skateboarding has given us, I feel privileged to be able to continue these efforts.

One challenge has been raising awareness that there are many skateboarders in Dallas and that we need modern skateparks to meet their needs, rather than just leaving them to use the streets. A number of people we approached thought Dallas already appeased skateboarders with our prefab St. Francis Skatepark 10 years ago or just thought that because they haven’t seen many skateboarders, not many kids skate anymore.

From talking with friends, there was a big push for a legit skatepark about 10 years ago, but it ultimately fell through. This left a lot of the skateboarding community with a “don’t bother, it will never happen” way of thinking, which I completely understand. I thought, well I haven’t tried yet and I know this is the right thing to do. I love Dallas and the idealist in me knew that if only those in power understood the amazingly positive attributes of having a modern skatepark and the community it would create, we would get one.

It has been an amazing learning experience for me. I have leaned heavily on the advice of two of the raddest guys in Texas skateboarding, Barry Blumenthal and Carter Dennis. Barry was the mastermind behind getting the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark in downtown Houston, and Carter is the reason San Antonio has so many skateparks. These guys have no personal stake in Dallas skateboarding, but continually answer my many questions again and again, simply for the love of furthering skateboarding—my heroes, seriously.

I also think I encountered a different Dallas government than my friends did 10 years ago. Several members of the current Dallas City Council recalled either themselves or friends skateboarding and understood the benefits of a skatepark. A number of Dallas Parks and Rec board members echoed the need for a major skatepark at the meetings we attended. Additionally, I can’t say enough about the Dallas Parks Foundation. I cold-called their director Samuel Stiles and explained the need and the benefits of a modern skatepark and he said immediately, “When and where do you want to meet to discuss it.” They have helped me formulate objectives, set up meetings with the appropriate local officials, and begin an awareness campaign on social media.

We have spoken about the importance of a modern skatepark in Dallas at numerous meetings in front of the Mayor and Dallas City Council, Dallas Parks and Rec, Dallas Parks Foundation and Dallas Bond Town Hall meetings. It has been fun seeing such a diverse group of skateboarders show up to advocate for a Dallas Skatepark. Naturally, many have been very anxious about speaking in front of local government officials, but when they see that these officials actually are listening and valuing their input, you see these skaters come out of the meeting with this adrenaline-charged energy, like “Yeah! I just did that! I just repped for my skate community!” And that’s a powerful feeling and one that I wish more Dallas skaters would embrace. As a teen or young adult reppin’ at one of these meetings, you can tell from the looks on the officials’ faces, that a young person being brave and taking time out to speak thoughtfully is a powerful face—one not often seen at City Hall.
— CH
Skater Xavier PInckney, Photo by Chadwick Rollins

Skater Xavier PInckney, Photo by Chadwick Rollins

What’s the next step and how can local skaters help?

Spread the word, sign up at SkateParksforDallas.org to get the latest news and needs in the effort. Don’t be afraid to shoot us a message at skate@dallasparksfoundation.org and ask how you can help. Email or call your Dallas City Council member and tell them that you want a skatepark in your district. When opportunities arise to speak, join us. If you don’t want to speak, just be there, showing that Dallas has skateboarders that need skatepark facilities. Show that Dallas skateboarders are an active group in this city and are willing to take the time to make our voices heard.
— CH

It was really awesome finding out exactly what's being done to bring a skatepark to our great city. A huge thank you to Clinton taking the time to talk with me and for launching such an amazing public project.

To learn more about the Skateparks For Dallas project and to stay up to date on this project, you can click the button below. I'll also be following them along the way and tweeting updates HERE as they become available. Let's get this park built, Dallas!