A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OWP
The Oxford Wheels Project is a registered charity working towards building a permanent wheels based sports facility for the city of Oxford. Established way back in 1997 the charity set out to provide a decent,free facility for young people to ride.
THE “TEMPORARY” MEADOW LANE RAMPS
In 2001 The OWP volunteers funded and built the Meadow Lane Ramps as a temporary solution to wheeled sports provision in Oxford while a permanent, concrete facility was sought. Intended to demonstrate the City Council the need for a skate park in the City the facility was only supposed to be there for a few years while OWP campaigned a concrete skate park.
However the “temporary” nature of the ramps were not quite as temporary as OWP expected
For over a decade the ramps served the people of Oxford – well outliving its intended 3 year lifespan. Thousands of volunteer hours, tonnes of plywood, miles of 2×4 was needed to keep the park open, safe to ride and free for everyone to ride. Running a timber, outdoor skate park in the UK is a HUGE amount of work.
The cost of running the park since 2001 exceeded £235,000 . All raised by volunteers.
Weathering, vandalism, heavy usage meant that OWP were constantly funding, maintaining and repairing the ramps
Whilst keeping this essential community facility open OWP continued its campaign to provide a permanent, concrete facility that would allow us to cater for more people and focus resources on promoting wheeled sports activities in the community.
FINDING A HOME FOR A PERMANENT FACILITY
OWP was set up to build a permanent park made from concrete. Concrete construction requires very little maintenance , dries much quicker than wood so it can be used more often than wood. Also building a park from concrete means that you can provide more stuff for people to skate – not just ramps but bowls and street obstacles to.
Meadow Lane is situated on low lying land and as such is a designated flood plain. This became an issue around 2003 and ,following a series of floods in the UK, building restrictions on flood plains were tightened.
We were told by the Environment Agency that we would not be allowed to build a concrete structure at Meadow Lane so the hunt was on to find a new location in Oxford for the skate park
2004-2008 MAINLY GETTING SHAFTED
For now -we’ll gloss over parts of this period of OWP history as it was perhaps the most horrendous display of political ineptitude, corruption and mishandling you’re likely to hear of. However we spent 4 years (4YEARS !) searching and identifying areas of Oxford to relocate a the park. Endless meetings, consultations, petitions only to be told by the council that there is nowhere in Oxford for a concrete skate park. We’ve kept all the paper work. We’ll show you one day. It’s horrific.
Meanwhile the ramps brought many happy days to many people. This was no ordinary skate park. This park was supervised by volunteers and for over a decade was opened, swept off, fixed, cleaned and loved EVERY DAY. Nobody asked for a penny.
THE DESTRUCTION OF MEADOW LANE
By 2008 he temporary facility was beyond repair and we had to demolish it. There was nothing we could do to fix the ramps as they were rotten through. The decision came to destroy the wonderful ramps we had worked so hard to build.
BUILDING THE RAMPS…AGAIN
And still nobody would help us with providing the permanent park that Oxford so badly needed. So with the ramps destroyed and no where to skate OWP raised another stack of money and like gluttons for punishment we built ANOTHER ramp at Meadow Lane.
OWP constructed what was arguably the best ramp of its kind in the whole country. Still the ramp remained free to ride and open to everyone and still our volunteers funded, maintained and supervised this facility that our charity provided free of charge.
REDEVELOPING MEADOW LANE
The campaign to provide a permanent facility went on. And On. And on. Without getting into the details of the rather awful politics we experienced OWP was told that there was nowhere in Oxford for a permanent skate park .The only choice was to keep running the ramps as a temporary measure or find some way around the technical flooding issues at the site.
And so, in 2008 as we rebuilt the ramps, we began talks with the Environment Agency and construction engineers to find out how we could build a concrete park at Meadow Lane. In the years that had passed other skate parks had popped up around the country and some built on contaminated land meaning they were built from the ground up – not into the ground as usual. This inspired the idea of “floating” a skate park on the flood plain.
Huge amounts of work went into researching and developing ideas to finally provide the facility that Oxford so badly needed, and for which we had campaigned so long to provide.
In January 2012, another 4 years after discussions began OWP was finally granted planning permssion to build a concrete park at Meadow Lane. A grand total of 11 years since the wooden ramps were first built.
For months OWP has been working closely with the EA , the City council, residents and skate park architects to draw up the designs for this facility that we have been striving to give to Oxford and finally we’re making good progress.
After 4 years of planning and research designs were drawn up that satisfied the Environment Agency, planning authorities and perhaps the most awkward people of all…skate boarders. The final design is shown below….
The layout and content of the park began with an homage to the spine ramp for which Meadow Lane had become renowned and from there the ideas were developed. The bottom right hand corner of the drawing shows the spine in situ – and it’s in the same place as it was when we built the ramps from wood.
The design is intended to cater for the broadest range of styles and abilities in skating and BMX and , if you ride yourself, you may be able to see how the park flows from one section to the next. Once you’re moving, pushing /pedalling can be kept to a minimum as you flow from one obstacle to the next
It will be able to cater for large amounts of users without “crossing lines” so at busy times sections of the park can be sessioned independently.
However when the opportunity arises the entire park can be skated as one, massive, fun facility.
The new park is costing £380,000 to build.
It was decided that the groundwork on the site would begin in September 2012 which would prepare the site for the skatepark. The ramps were demolished and the entire site excavated then built back up with stone to create a “raft” on which the skate park will float. This will allow flood water to pass under the park and ensure it creates no flood risk. Quite a feat of engineering.
THE NEW PARK OPENS
Finally in May 2013 the new Oxford Wheels Park opened it’s gates to the public.
And a bloody good park it is to.
After a very, very long fight Oxford now has the skate facility it deserved for so many years.
Managed by a fantastic team of volunteers the park continues to be an essential part of the community and draws in riders from all over country.