Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Foreclosed Backyards National [Skate] Park

Photo: New York Times

Last summer, I'd written about how Sun Belt swimming pools were reverting to semi-wild conditions in abandoned backyards thanks to the foreclosure crisis. Suburb-dwellers, so accustomed to a landscape of control, are seeing their swimming pools transform into vernal pools. Quoting a Wall Street Journal article on the phenomenon:
"First you have fish, then you have birds that eat them" and then bird droppings, says Arnie Shal, a retired accountant, who lives next to several foreclosed houses with pools in Clearwater, Fla. "It's not really a healthy situation."
But it certainly is a healthy situation for fish and birds, of course. The foreclosure crisis is turning suburban backyards into tiny little wildlife refuges.

Unless you're interested in fishing for minnows or birdwatching, though, the foreclosure vernal pools don't offer a lot in the way of backcountry recreation opportunities. Which is why I'm so happy to learn, via the New York Times, of another burgeoning trend: reclaiming foreclosed backyards and their drained swimming pools as skateboard parks.
"There are more pools right now than I could possibly skate," [skater Adam Morgan of Los Angeles] said. "It’s pretty exciting." Mr. Peacock travels around town in his pickup searching for the addresses of homes he has learned have been foreclosed on, either via the Internet or from a friend who works in real estate. He has also learned to spot a foreclosed house, he said, by looking for "dead grass on the lawn and lockboxes on the front door."
California's abandoned backyard pools are thus becoming a world-renowned landmark for suburban outdoor recreation: "Skaters are coming to places like Fresno [a Central Valley city with a preponderance of foreclosed backyard pools] from as far as Germany and Australia."

So, not only are our foreclosed suburban backyards becoming new havens for wild nature; they've also become world-renowned playgrounds for outdoor sports. And, thanks to the passage of the massive bailout package and the "troubled asset relief program," the American public now owns a substantial portion of these over-mortgaged backyards.

America's foreclosed backyards are a lot like a newly-created national park.

Photo: New York Times

The skateboarders have even developed their own code of ethics, which is strikingly similar to the "leave no trace" principles that are promoted among backcountry hikers and climbers. Quoting once again from the Times article:
In order to maintain a sense of public service, the skateboarders adhere to basic rules: no graffiti, pack out trash and never mess with or enter the houses. [Skating occurs] in short bursts during the workday to avoid disturbing neighbors or attracting police attention. Twice in recent weeks, Mr. Peacock said, the police caught the skateboarders in an empty pool and demanded they leave but did not issue citations.
So, skate Chlorine Canyon! Try angling in the Fresnoglades! Learn about the family life of opossums, raccoons, and other small mammals in the Pool Shed Game Preserve! Just remember to leave the Park as you found it, and please respect other visitors.

No matter where you live, a piece of the Foreclosed Backyards National Park is nearby... start planning your vacation today!


Rachel said...

I've never commented but I love your blog. Thanks for once again pointing out the interdependence of our existence.

Turboglacier said...

That is wicked awesome.

C Neal said...

Thanks, Rachel and Dr. Turbo. Comments like these make blogging a pleasure.