Skateboarding today is a completely different beast then what it used to be. At the dawn of skateboarding, people eagerly generalized this art form and the practitioners of said art into nothing more than vandals on wheels, giving the stigma that skateboarders were all delinquents or drug users. But today, with those kids of yesterday being the adults of today, people of all ages are still skateboarding and the evidence that you must be a low-life to love skateboarding is diminishing rapidly. Skateboarding today is the most popular it has ever been due to how fun the activity is and how much the sport has progressed since its conception. In the 70's people were stoked to Ollie off the ground, today twelve year olds are doing 900 degree spins, something that Tony Hawk did twenty years ago that was revolutionary. The learning curve is extremely high and kids need obstacles to skate, otherwise you'll have a skate-able downtown overrun by skaters in no time.
New Orleans is the largest metropolitan city without a skate park in the entire United States. With the state of California having over 500 skate parks state-wide, and Texas and Colorado a close second, Louisiana chiming in with almost a dozen skate parks altogether. The one park that exists today is perched under a bridge, like many a legendary skate park.
The park, dubbed "Parisite" and built by skaters, is the reclamation of a decommissioned New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORD) park space and opened soon after the deconstruction of an adjacent skate spot, The Peach Orchard, when Norfolk Southern Railway bulldozed it in 2011.
As of a few months ago, Parasite was added to dramatically with the help of Red Bull. In 2011, Red Bull hosted an event called "Mississippi Grind" where they loaded up a transport barge with all sorts of skateboarding obstacles and hosted a competition while the barge floated down river. The barge made a few stops but ultimately ended at the mouth of the ocean in the Big Easy. Four years is a long time to deliberate insurance, location, and all the ins and outs that go with creating a sanctioned park, even for a city. Alas, the skaters rejoice now that they have some professionally made things to skate, not saying that the DIY parts of Parasite aren't as efficient, just not as pretty.
There happens to be another skate park in the city that no one can use/enjoy in the lower 9th ward. Built by New Orleans native Lil' Wayne for underprivileged kids of New Orleans, like he was, this skate park is new and flashy, equipped with a solar panel that charges the whole place, but no one can skate it. Lil' Wayne has been battling license and insurance since the park was finished in 2012 and it still sits in the 9th ward, unused.
Next time you see a group of skaters in the street and think 'get out of the road' or 'die hippy!', remember that the city you live in, and you, could easily get those bodies off the street and into a clean, fenced in park. In March, Parasite launched a KickStarter campaign that raised over 50,000 dollars toward funding a new skatepark/new equipment to skate, but they still need more. Be the change by reaching out to the NORD or other local agencies and letting them know that we need more skate parks in the city. If you would like to help more directly visit http://www.parisitediy.org/ or the skate park itself to get involved.