Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Green Skate Laboratory


Tags: afterschool, building, community, concrete, construction, curriculum, DC, education, environmental, park, repurpose, salvage, schools, skate, skateboarding, Washington, youth

A multi-purpose environmental education space, combining physical laboratory, classroom, and skateboarding bowl.

Washington DC's Green Skate Laboratory is the brainchild of the  East Coast Round Wall Foundation (ECRW), a non-profit coalition of skateboarders dedicated to expanding the scope of skater culture in the DC metro area and throughout the Mid-Atlantic.  The group was founded by Terri and Chris Nostrand, respectively an environmental science teacher and craftsman.  The Nostrands originally conceived of the Green Skate Laboratory, or GSL, as a program for one of Terri's classes, a "multi-purpose space for recreation, arts and science."  Almost as much curriculum as physical laboratory, the project comprised multiple phases of environmental education for DC youth through the construction of an elaborate skate park from recycled and reused materials.

The Green Skate Lab received grants from the Tony Hawk Foundation and Project Learning Tree for its focus on skateboarding and recycled materials, respectively.  The District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation provided the site, a parcel of vacant land in Langdon Park, in the Northeast DC Langdon neighborhood.  ECRW drew on connections to independent designers, graphic artists, and other skateboarding organizations for design and documentary assistance for the skate park.

Roughly 5,000 tires salvaged from area National Parks provided an armature for the skate park.  Fill material from construction sites stabilized the tire structures.  The construction team then built formwork, laid rebar and a 6-inch layer of gravel, and poured a 6-inch layer of concrete to finish the landscape and ready it for high-impact skating.  A list of desired supplies and funds for the project included 100 yards of concrete, 2 tons of rebar, 5 days' use of a concrete pump, equipment rental, contractor fees, and $1500-worth of lumber for building the formwork.  ECRW staff and adult volunteers from a variety of local institutions and communities contributed a significant portion of time and resources for the project.  The final product is a bowl shape of variable heights, from 4 to 9 feet tall at different points.

The project faced significant setbacks following the disappearance of $20,000 in grant funds from the organization thanks to misfiled paperwork or embezzlement-sources vary greatly on the reason for this disappearance.  A project proposal and request for funding published in Skater Magazine and other media outlets helped the foundation recover a significant portion of this amount in donations from other sources.

The park opened to the public in July 2005.  From conception-2003-to completion, the process took two years, while actual construction of the park took place over 6 months.  ECRW plans to carry out several similar projects throughout the DC area, as well as to expand the original Green Skate Laboratory into a full-fledged environmental science learning center and curriculum for after-school programs in local schools.


Stapula, Jaime & Nostrand, Terri.  "Duty Now!  For the Future...: Green Skate Lab."  Interview with Jim Murphy.  Juice Magazine, Issue 59.  Accessed online April 4, 2011.

Green Skate Lab unofficial web page.  Accessed April 4, 2011.

"Live the Dream with Green Skate Laboratory."  Skateboarder Magazine online (April 8, 2005).  Accessed April 4, 2011.

McLaren, Jon.  "Innovations in Green Building: Skate Parks."  Interview with Emily Axelbaum.  Green Building Institute E-Newsletter (May 2007).  Accessed online April 4, 2011.

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