City urged to ramp up build­ing of skateparks

Pas­time once greeted war­ily, now ac­cepted and pro­moted

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

A new study says the city should roll out more skate­board­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in parks.

The study eval­u­ates likely sites for up to nine new ded­i­cated fa­cil­i­ties aimed at skate­board­ers — and also in-line skaters and BMX bik­ers — be­tween now and 2031.

It also weighs in on the pop­u­lar­ity and value of Hamil­ton’s “rare hot­bed of skate cul­ture,” go­ing so far as to la­bel the beloved-but-crum­bling con­crete at Beasley Park as a “youth and her­itage cul­tural site.”

The study found a grow­ing de­mand for — and ac­cep­tance of — skateparks that sug­gests city res­i­dents have done a 180 on a sport that once spawned not-in-my-back­yard protests.

Sean Cor­ri­gan is not sur­prised by the find­ings.

The 16-year-old skate­boarder helped put to­gether a 311-name pe­ti­tion last year call­ing for a skatepark in An­caster.

“It makes sense to me, be­cause so many young kids are get­ting into the sport,” said Cor­ri­gan, whose clos­est skatepark is Turner Park on Ry­mal Road East, about 12 kilo­me­tres away. “It’s al­ways busy. The de­mand is only get­ting worse.”

That fa­cil­ity only ex­ists to­day be­cause res­i­dents liv­ing around the orig­i­nal in­tended site, McQuesten Park, turned out by the hun­dreds to op­pose the plan. Turner Park was cho­sen in 2005 in part be­cause of a built-in po­lice pres­ence and prom­ises of video mon­i­tor­ing to com­bat fears of van­dal­ism or graf­fiti.

But fast-for­ward to to­day — par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers are ask­ing for skate parks to give youth a healthy, ac­tive out­let, ac­cord­ing to com­ments gath­ered in the lat­est study.

That was also one of the ra­tio­nales used to jus­tify the more re­cent ad­di­tion of an ex­per­i­men­tal BMX pump track at van­dal­ism-prone Gage Park.

The lat­est re­port is meant to guide fu­ture con­struc­tion of skateparks rec­om­mended in an ear­lier “out­door study” of recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties that had pre­vi­ously fore­cast de­mand in ar­eas across the city.

The lat­est re­port uses feed­back from pub­lic meet­ings and sur­veys to fur­ther eval­u­ate spe­cific city parks.

Cor­ri­gan, who is also part of a team that cre­ated a smart­phone app show­ing skat­ing and BMX sites across the GTA, was pleased to hear An­caster’s com­mu­nity cen­tre was ranked high on the can­di­date list, along with Val­ley Park in Stoney Creek and Alexan­der Park in west Hamil­ton.

But there is stiff com­pe­ti­tion for new in­fra­struc­ture — and not a lot of money to go around. A 10,000square-foot skatepark can range from $370,000 to $520,000, de­pend­ing on what ameni­ties — think ramps or bowls — are in­stalled.

Stoney Creek Coun. Doug Con­ley said de­sign work for a Val­ley Park skate­board­ing fa­cil­ity is un­der­way, but added there may not be build­ing cash in the bud­get un­til 2019.

“I would say there is a de­mand for it — I re­ceived a pe­ti­tion — but there is de­mand for other recre­ational ameni­ties as well,” he said, point­ing in par­tic­u­lar to splash pads. “At this point, there is more de­mand than there is money.”

The city also has work to do at its ex­ist­ing skate parks, some of which are deal­ing with noise is­sues or just fall­ing apart. The re­ports notes badly needed im­prove­ments at “the Beaz,” the skatepark in the Beasley neigh­bour­hood con­sid­ered one of the old­est in North Amer­ica.

“While Beasley has great his­tory and a loyal fol­low­ing of users who honed their skills at this park for many years, the up­grades be­ing planned … are much needed and the sen­ti­ment of lo­cal se­nior skaters is that the im­prove­ments are long over­due.”

A “long-an­tic­i­pated” re­de­vel­op­ment of the park is com­ing this sum­mer, said Ward Coun. Ja­son Farr, with planned changes “based on the direct in­put of skaters. They know best.”

A faster — and cheaper — al­ter­na­tive might be the ad­di­tion of a “skate­able bench, rail or small ledge wall” in many city parks adds the re­port. Coun­cil­lors will con­sider the study at a meet­ing Wed­nes­day.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Cameron Hen­ley, 12, ne­go­ti­ates the ter­rain at the Beaz in Beasley Park, con­sid­ered one of the old­est skateparks in North Amer­ica.

A re­port calls for more skat­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the city.

The skatepark in Beasley Park is in need of re­pairs.

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