Mike Taylor – Skatepark Designer @ Purkiss Rose.

… I started out as a critic too. I came to PR to help and to try and constantly improve our designs. I’m here to represent the seasoned skaters…

Mike Taylor of Purkiss-Rose

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Mike Taylor. I’m a thirty-six year old skateboarder from Santa Barbara, Ca. I’ve been skating parks since around 1975. From 1989 to current I’ve worked on many different skateparks all over the U.S. and a few over seas. My experience has included design, construction, operations and consulting, on public, private, ramp, and concrete skateparks. I’ve been at PR since the spring of 2000. I love skateparks and I’m committed to excellence.

Describe Purkiss-Rose’s (PR) whole business?

PR is a landscape architectural firm based out of Fullerton, Ca. Established over thirty years ago, PR specializes in park and recreation planning, with an additional design division devoted to skatepark projects.

How has PR built its skatepark division? Give us a little history.

Back in 1991 the city of Huntington Beach asked PR to participate in the design of two small skateparks. Based on the success of those first skatepark projects and a steady stream of new projects, a skatepark division of PR was created. The staff is headed up by owner Steve Rose, designers include Frank Hirata, who designs, consults and is a pro skater and myself. Dominic Oyzon and Natalie Cousins-Robledo are the project managers. Other support staff and skaters include Terry Valles, Jerry Nolan, Sydney Romero and Noel Vigil.

Does PR handle all the design elements of each skatepark?

Yes, but we include input from the local skaters who live in the cities we’re working in. We run a series of workshops where skaters can show up, give us input and feedback on the skatepark designs.

Do you think PR gets the blame for more than its share of poor craftsmanship? How much control of subcontractors for each element does PR have?

We often get blamed for skateparks that are less than great. Some of it is justified, but often we get blamed for issues outside of our scope of work. That’s fine, we want to hear it all. Criticism is healthy. Most of the time the skaters that write us are telling us everything we need to know and we take it to heart. PR is not a builder or a developer. It is standard for cities to go with the low bid contractor. We have no control of this, and it can lead to poor craftsmanship. We advise cities on how to pre-qualify the very best skatepark builders in our industry. Sometimes cities want to pay for premium construction, other times not. We ask the cities that hire us for design, to call us out into the field during construction. That way we can walk the site with the contractor and make sure everything is coming out properly. Sometimes cities don’t hire us to come back for those crucial site visits. We are only a phone call away, and we get very frustrated when a city or contractor doesn’t communicate with us during construction.

Tell us about the function and input skateboarding groups have. I’ve heard both good and bad reports about these from skaters.

The arguments are strong on both sides of the issue. The negative side is basically that too many chefs can spoil the soup. Communities have pre-existing skate groups that have been lobbying for a local skatepark. Cities use these groups at our workshops to give us input on design. The vast majority of skaters who show up at our workshops are street skaters. A lot of our critics are well-rounded skaters who want a balance of both traditional skatepark features and street elements. Their input usually comes after the fact. The positive side of the argument is that the public process can work to their advantage. They just need to take the time to show up at the meetings with like-minded skaters. We post the information for the workshops on our website ( www.skateparkdesigner.com ), and anyone can show up. Recently we’ve had Steve Alba come with some of his friends to workshops around the Inland Empire. It’s made a huge difference and the design for Upland is a testament to that.

We know that a skatepark needs to have a good flow, a balance of street and bowls, intermediate and advanced, a little bit of everything. We strive for the best designs given the challenges of budgets, size and height restraints cities may have. Sometimes cities just want a small skate plaza with nothing but street skating elements. We often recommend that cities have more than one skatepark and meet the needs of the different styles of skaters.

Do you think the majority of your skateparks address the needs of all levels of skaters? It seems like they mainly drop off at the advanced skater’s ability and often even earlier than that.

We have a lot of designs with advanced elements (Upland for one) and a lot of intermediate designs too. We always try to educate cities to the advantages of having challenging areas in their design. Some cities have height restrictions. Other projects can be impacted when uninformed residents, and/or city insurance policies are concerned with elements that appear to be dangerous, while not truly realizing what is dangerous, and what is safe. We can try to educate them, but a lot of people are trying to represent the interest of the skater, without having a lot of experience. The skater’s are asked to voice their views, but are not always listened to for the final word. This is why it is extremely important for as many skater’s as possible to get involved from the beginning, and stay involved all the way through. It is especially important for professional and prominent skaters to become involved too. It can be a long process, and a lot of skater’s show up once, and think whatever they asked for will be built, as they requested. But a lot of things can get changed throughout the process. This is especially true if peoples voices are not being heard.

How do you tell a city it’s in their best interest to build a great skatepark?

We always tell them bigger is better. We tell them they need a park that will not get boring and will keep skaters challenged for years to come. We tell them to listen to the expert skaters in their area. We give them examples of successful and poor public skateparks. We encourage them to do their homework and to visit other parks. Some cities are not interested in any of that. They want to provide a small park to relieve the issue of street skating. They don’t want a top caliber park that will attract skaters from other cities.

How do you price your bid (quote to a city)?

Our fees for all our park planning efforts are based on a percent of the
construction costs, usually between 8% to 12% based on the sub-consultants
we need to hire and the scope of the project. Many times our scope is
for more work beyond the skatepark, like restrooms, shade structures, access,
parking, etc.

Sighting Monrovia CA. as an example, how does a design get changed at the last minute? I’ve been told that the angular bowl was designed to be eight feet deep, but turned out to be approx. five, and the down hill slope that was created isn’t ideal to hold a skater in the bowl.

We did design that bowl to be deeper. When we first started working with the skaters, that bowl was to be ten or twelve feet deep. Sometimes city staff, risk managers and insurance workers can impose changes. Changes can occur that are totally out of our control and often we don’t hear about them till after the fact.

Do you now staff engineer(s) to build radical structures like the full pipe in Upland, CA.? The construction photos on your website are intense.

We hire structural engineers as well as other licensed consultants for all projects that require it.

What skateparks is PR most proud of?

Upland, Santa Barbara, Ceres, Faifield, Marysville (WA.), Montclair (in the design phase), Gowen, and Ojai (in the design phase).

Does PR draw a line to a city at a certain point if they know their budget will not build a quality skatepark, or does PR take all the jobs it can get?

A small skatepark can still be a quality skatepark. There is no job too small or too big. It costs more to build a bad park than a good park.

What are you personally most proud of creating?

My kids, Serina and Amie. As far as skateparks, the original Skate Street Ventura and the Powell SkateZone.

What is the largest skatepark creation PR has produced?

The largest design is 30,000 square feet. Visalia is the largest completed at 24,000 square feet.

Does your design department learn from other builders? Whose work do you admire?

Of course we do. We travel and try to skate everything. In the last few weeks I went to Newberg, Ripon, Fontana, Vagabond pool, and a few other backyard pools too. We like what everyone likes. We give great recommendations for all the deserving veterans in the industry.

What is the most pleasing part of completing a new skatepark?

Skating it when it’s not crowded. Seeing other skaters do sick stuff at it.

Any closing comments?

Yeah, I just wanted to say that I started out as a critic too. I came to PR to help and to try and constantly improve our designs. I’m here to represent the seasoned skaters, and to try to influence designs to be bigger and better. Even when only street skaters show up at the workshops, I’ll always be the voice for a balance including traditional skatepark features. I want to thank everyone but especially my wife Hannah.