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Life's a "Real Grind" at the EDGE @ Allen Station Park

Stephen Kelly, editor




It's said that concrete skate parks are essentially sculptural projects. The edges of any wall, bank or pool must be hard and "grindable." You can't be on the edge if there is no edge. A round coping edge of steel pipe, a minimum of two inches in diameter, sticks out slightly for good grinding, while protecting the cement from wear.

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Allen, Texas is a northern suburb of Dallas, just north of Plano and home to The Edge @ Allen Station Park. The Edge, located on the south end of the park, is a 12-acre recreation complex for the area teenagers, one the largest outdoor facilities of its kind in the state. It consists of a youth center, skatepark, roller hockey rinks, BMX course, event lawn and picnic area. The venue opened to the kids on June 4, 2005. There is no charge to use the skate park.

The Edge is restricted to kids of ages 10 through 17 and was developed with enormous support from the city of Allen, the community and particularly the kids who use the park. Many user group workshops were conducted with the kids whose ideas were incorporated into the design.






As seen in the master plan for Allen Station Park, The Edge (bottom left) is the second phase of development for the 109-acre Allen Station Park. It is a small area by the park's standard, but packs a wallop of activity within.

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The Edge is the second phase development of the 109-acre Allen Station Park, and much of the physical character of the facility was a result of a deliberate attempt to remain consistent with the overall character of the larger park. The park's public spaces are said to "capture the essence of Allen's early days as a water stop for the railroad." Red roofs, limestone, brick and heavy timber frameworks are the common elements that harken to Allen's past.

Meandering hike and bike trails surround the park and include interpretative signage for the historic dam at Cottonwood Creek.






The Edge @ Allen Station Park in Allen Texas is a 12-acre recreation complex combining a concrete skate park (right), BMX trails (top), two full-size hockey rinks (left) and a Youth Center (center).


Other than the recent addition of the skate park, kids play ball at two separate facilities--a four-plex of softball fields and a five-plex baseball complex. Playgrounds and a picnic area are located between the two complexes.

The landscape architect was the prime consultant for The Edge with the overall responsibility for planning, design and construction of the facility.






The permanent bleachers between the hockey rinks are highlighted by a dramatic canopy that recalls Allen's early railroad history. It was designed by Dick Cate of MCCM Architects.


A Walk O'er Ol' Stacy

The experience of entering The Edge is via the steel and wood deck of Old Stacy Road Bridge, which was salvaged from the county. The bridge is circa 1920, was expanded in 1964 and installed for a two-lane road that crossed Cottonwood Creek. When Stacy Road was reconstructed in 2001, the city of Allen saved the steel and wood bridge for use by nonvehicular traffic and moved it here over a little tributary of Cottonwood Creek. This single gateway reinforces the feeling of The Edge as an exclusive enclave for kids.






The park is entered and exited over Old Stacy Road Bridge, which was manufactured in the 1920s and expanded in 1964 when it was installed for a two-lane road that crossed Cottonwood Creek. When Stacy Road was reconstructed in 2001, the city of Allen saved the steel and wood bridge for use by nonvehicular traffic, and thus became a historic piece for the new park. It now crosses a small creek, a tributary of Cottonwood Creek. The main function of the little creek is as a stormwater channel. A Texas/Oklahoma wildflower grass mix flourishes on both sides of the channel.


Youth Center

At the center of The Edge is a 4,700 sq. foot Youth Center that provides computer labs, concessions, restrooms, video, music and games. In favorable weather glass roll-up doors can be opened onto the surrounding plaza. Directly in front of the Youth Center is an open lawn and performance stage that is a venue for local bands and entertainment. Architect Dick Cate of MCCM Architects designed the Youth Center.






The bicycle motocross (BMX) is a 60,000 sq. ft. regulation competition course laid out with the assistance of Josue Ramos, a former Spanish Olympic BMX biker and Allen resident. The track is 900 ft. long and challenges riders with 10 jumps, slopes, doubles, rollers, step-ups and table step-ups. BMX is performed on bikes with an average wheel size of 20 inches. The sport involves racing and freestyle maneuvers. We're told there are five distinct disciplines with the freestyle form.


As the name indicates, the Youth Center is for youth ages 10 to 17 (up to 18 years if the person is still enrolled in high school). A generous donation from the Kiwanis Club of Allen equipped the computer lab with 12 computers, a printer and various software. The media room comprises five televisions, including one wide-screen television, plus Play Station and X Box systems. The game room offers ping pong, pool and more TVs.






The skate park is a combination bowl, flow and street park with over 37,000 square feet of concrete skate area. The skate park does not cater only to accomplished boarders. Large bank slope areas allow beginners to practice. A shade structure and picnic tables at the hub of the skate park offers a 360-degree viewing area.


The Skatepark

The skatepark is the main attraction at The Edge and has drawn skaters from around the region and state. It was designed by the SITE Design Group, Carlsbad, Calif., a planning, design and construction services firm specializing in action sport facilities. The contractor for the skate park was North Texas Contracting, Inc.

The skate park is a combination bowl, flow and street park with over 37,000 square feet of concrete skate area. The Edge claims to be the largest skate park in Texas. Within the skate area is a pavilion for spectators and resting.






Two full-size hockey rinks are used by youths and adults. Only inline skates are allowed here. There are team and scorer's boxes, covered spectator seating and the facilities are lighted. The manufacturer for the hockey rink boards and fencing was Athletica.


"It's an amazing place, a dream come true. We finally have a place to skate without being chased off," said a 16-year-old skater.

Skate park elements include street fixtures--stairs with handrails to "ollie" on, boxes, rails, ledges, a "picnic table" (not a place to eat), a wide variety of bowls and transitions ranging from six to nine feet deep, steel coping throughout for grinding, and large bank slope areas for beginners to practice. This lighted facility is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Pit stops (restrooms) and water fountains are located on the east side of the youth center.






A youth shows some decidedly over-the-hill skateboarders how to rise out of the bowl with all body parts intact. The city of Allen consulted high school students to understand exactly what they wanted in a skate park. Students now form an advisory board to help monitor the lighted facility, which is free of charge and open daily 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.


Hockey, Anyone?

If you like your skates attached to your feet, then the two lighted regulation roller hockey rinks might be your style. Only inline skates are allowed here, no skateboards or BMX bikes. Both youth and adults try out their hockey moves here. The permanent bleachers between the rinks are highlighted by a dramatic canopy that recalls the early Allen railroad station.

Architect Dick Cate of MCCM Architects designed the pavilion and bleacher area nestled between the two hockey rinks. There are also team and scorer's boxes and the facility is lighted for night play.






A BMXer does a bunny hop, i.e., lifing both wheels off the ground by crouching down and then abruptly pulling the bike up.


For the BMX Crowd

The BMX course is a 60,000 sq. ft. regulation competition course. The 900-ft. dirt track was laid out with the assistance of a former Spanish Olympic BMX biker and Allen resident.

The track's "U" inside the "V" layout offers a natural flow into the first corner. A "rhythm section" from corner to corner in the third straight-away and 10 jumps offer challenges and thrills. The feature section of the track is the second corner, with a slope from the highest point of the track to the ground level, so the riders turn while going downhill. The first straight has a double, roller and table step-up to a step-up; the second straightaway presents a double, triple and a huge step-up, with three consecutive doubles in the fourth straight away to finish out the track. The track is not lighted.






You've seen kids skateboarding on "street" features designed for pedestrians. Here, the street elements are modified for skaters and positioned away from the bowl area.


The Edge is a great facility for the youth of Allen, Texas. Its success comes from the diverse range of activities for a segment of the population that tends to spent a lot of time in front of computer screens in lieu of outdoor recreation. But there's still hope. Think of it, kids actually going "outside" to play!

"Getting the kids to buy into this project and take pride in it by designing it and now policing it will make it all that much more successful," said the assistant parks director.






The skate park was designed by SITE Design Group, Inc. (SDG), in collaboration with Clark Condon Associates. The building contractor was North Texas Contracting, Inc. Two design workshop meetings included input from skater boarders. "The design consists of large transition areas, including a clover-shaped bowl, an individual flow course, and another flow course that spills into the street area," explains SDG. Skatepark designers speak of the need for a minimum of 10 feet of flat bottom between obstacles and opposing transitions, as skateboarders generate speed by pumping up and down transitions and can carry speed for good distances across flat, smooth concrete.









About the Landscape Architects

Clark Condon (clarkcondon.com) is a landscape architecture and planning firm that has been designing corporate campuses, parks, neighborhoods, hospital healing gardens and communities since 1985. Sheila Condon, FASLA, is a co-founder and president of the firm and oversees its designs and general operations. For The Edge @ Allen Station Park, LASN spoke with Paul Withers, ASLA, MLA. He and Sheila Condon were the principals on this project.






The Youth Center (background) is a 4,000 sq. ft. facility with a media room, computer lab, game room and snack bar. Its red roofs, limestone, brick and heavy timber framework reflect the common materials used to build the first train station in Allen, Texas.


"The Edge" flora

There are five varieties of pecan trees on site: Caddo, Choctaw, Desireable, Sioux and Wichita.






Cercis Canadensis 'Oklahoma' (eastern redbud)







Lagerstroemia indica 'Tuscarora' (Tuscarora crape myrtle)







Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash)







Liriope muscari 'Big Blue' ('Big Blue' liriope)







Trachelospermum asiaticum (Asian jasmine)


Historic Allen, Texas






This little dam in Allen, Texas was built in 1874 by the Houston and Texas Railroad as a water supply for its steam engines. Allen became an official water stop for the railroad in 1908 when a larger dam was built upstream to contain Cottonwood Creek, which submerged this little dam. It was only after floodwaters breached the big dam that the small historic dam was revealed.


As so many locals west of the Mississippi, the colonists that settled the New World didn't begin settling what today is Allen, Texas until the early 1840s--as the Caddo and Comanche tribes moved westward. And as happened most everywhere the white man intruded on Indian land to settle "free" land, there was bloodshed. One of the last battles with Indians in this area occurred along Rowlett Creek in 1844.






Allen has a number of historical markers about town. This one on a median explains that the first train robbery in Texas occurred in Allen on Feb. 22, 1878, led by Sam Bass.


The Houston and Texas Central Railroad laid out the original township of Allen when it constructed the railroad through Allen in 1872. In 1908, when the city dammed Cottonwood Creek, Allen became a water stop for the steam-driven railroad engines on route from Denison to Dallas. As a train stop, Allen grew and prospered, but its fortunes fell when the route closed in 1948 and by 1950 the population plummeted to 400. The construction of the interstate U.S. 75 in 1960 brought Allen back to life, just as the railroad stop had over half a century before.






A water tower in Allen, Texas (pop. 77,000) carries the high school mascot. Allen has one high school and the Allen Independent School District employs 2,000, by far Allen's largest employer. Note: The football team was 10-0 this season.

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October 13, 2019, 7:00 pm PDT

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