Kanten Russell Interview.

By Brooke McGee

Kanten Russell, you may know the name because of his 12 years as a pro skateboarder. More recently, you may know him because of his work designing custom skateparks throughout the United States. Currently, his ears may be ringing because of an ongoing project in nearby Madison, WI.

Recently, Kanten made a trip from his home in San Diego, CA to come to Madison, WI. Along with the City of Madison Parks Division, Kanten Russell of Stantec- Action Sports Design (ASD), displayed to the Madison Skatepark Fund (MSF) members and the public design layouts for Madison’s first upcoming skatepark. Persistent in their efforts to succeed, the Portage Family Skate Park project (PFSP) was represented in the audience as well, listening intently to MSF’s ongoing efforts.

“I didn’t have a skate park growing up,” Kanten mentioned while offering personal encouragement. “Because of that, I didn’t get into skating until what you would call a later age- my early teens. My good friend got me into it and I was hooked. Now, I enjoy designing parks just as much. It’s amazing how every area has different preferences, such variety.”

These area preferences and regional differences are one important aspect for public feedback. Without the input from local residents, designers and planners can be left frustrated if they lack the interaction with area residents.

“I’ve really enjoyed touching back with skateparks where we have had a lot of good communication,” Kanten told us. “When following up, we’ve even heard: ‘Is it possible to be too successful?’ Typically, it’s underestimated how much a skatepark will be utilized, or how much business it will bring to an area. You don’t need to form a team or rely on others to show up. It’s a creative expression and you set your own style and goals. It’s a very unique sport that helps build confidence and physical stamina.”

Like Stantec and the MSF, Portage is very open to suggestion and feedback when it comes to the planning process of the Portage Family Skate Park project. “We want the feedback of the public too,” PFSP President Kyle Little encourages. “We need to know your concerns. We want to hear what you think is working. If you’re curious or concerned, just ask. Better yet, come to one of our meetings and see how we operate. If you have a tight schedule, we have a contact form online at Portageskatepark.org or you can give us a Tweet. History shows a better outcome this way. I strongly believe that is one thing all of us in Portage have in common- we all want a successful outcome.”

“When you get the entire community involved you get the best results,” Kanten pointed out. “Madison is very fortunate that they have so many backing the park. Community members are coming out to find out what it’s all about. It’s a collaboration. We hear what they’re saying and we all come to a mutual agreement, though there is compromise. But that compromise is made together and with the community in mind.”

It is because of Madison’s community input that a “slam wall,” a term coined by retired pro skater David Mayhew’s older brother Chris and his friends will likely be a part of the Madison Skatepark design. This iconic feature is uniquely derived from Madison’s State Street and there is a strong desire to proudly incorporate this into the design.

“Ultimately it will always be the community’s park,” Kanten stated. “We can definitely provide some solid advice based on experience but the community is going to get what they want. It is entirely a community process. I know our design firm has a lot of passion for working with a group to bring their dream concept to life.”

The community’s park- that truth is the reason why the Portage Family Skate Park project’s meetings are always open to the public each and every Tuesday. “I think the idea of a unique, iconic symbol is inspirational,” one Portage volunteer stated. “We have some very creative individuals in Portage, our community arts center demonstrates that. I’d be curious to see what Portage could come up with.”

“One aspect about the parks that I like to build is the opportunity it creates for individuals of all ages feel welcome. Family skate parks are great like that. You have areas for the beginners where they can learn and build back to more intricate, skill-based areas. It really becomes timeless and grows with the families.”

Regardless of the city, there are at times those who oppose skateboarding. These reasons can vary greatly, from the relaxed clothing (“the look”) needed to operate a board freely, to preconceived notions by those who merely do not understand the sport. “Skateboarding can have very difficult, intricate moves,” Kanten explained. “It really is a complex action sport at the professional level, just like any sport can be. The time and skill that it takes to master some of those skills shouldn’t be overlooked, it shows the drive behind an individual and what potential they have. I feel it shows determination in life.”

The Portage Family Skate Park project meetings are held every Tuesday at 5-6:30 PM at the Gerstenkorn Administration Building, 305 East Slifer St. in Portage, room 20.

You can follow Kanten Russell of Stantec/ASD on Twitter at @KantenRussell, @ASDSTUDIO, and @Stantec. Information on skate parks can be found likewise at actionsportdesign.com.

For updates and progress on the Portage Family Skate Park project, you can follow them on Twitter at @Portagesk8park or at Facebook.com/Portageskatepark. Interested in donating time, energy or even the almighty dollar? The PFSP does accept Paypal, but even more, (Website! Click! Yes- it’s really that easy…) they accept your support. Broke? We know the feeling. For the low, low cost of one stamp you can send letters of support to “PFSP President: Kyle Little, 327 River Street, Portage, WI 53901.” It’s that simple, just send a letter to give some encouragement and let them know you’re rooting for the park!

Kanten Russell

Kanten Russell