Toronto Star

Grant helps expand Malvern skateboard­ing community

Neighbourh­ood’s growing demand met by skate park


What’s the fastest-growing sport in Malvern?

Basketball still matters in this northeast Scarboroug­h neighbourh­ood, where the Mother Teresa Titans reached the city semifinals last season.

But the local skateboard­ing community is expanding rapidly, especially since a United Way seed grant helped a high school club at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute set up a seasonal skate park that serves the whole community.

When the Malvern Skate Park debuted in the summer of 2013, roughly 300 patrons passed through, riding skateboard­s, scooters and BMX bikes on ramps and rails set up on a drained ice rink at the Malvern Community Centre. By this past summer, that number had jumped to 400.

As skateboard­ing grows more popular here, the teenagers and mentors behind the skate park hope to expand its size and scope.

“It has definitely made the skateboard­ing community a much bigger place,” said Pearson student and skate-park volunteer Thilaksion Kumaria. “I’d like to have a more permanent park. That would definitely be a long-term goal.”

The skate park is typical of the programs United Way’s Resident Action Grant program exists to serve.

At Pearson, the skateboard club meets twice weekly, hauling a small ramp into a long hallway between gymnasiums. A full-sized skate park would need bigger ramps, and more of them, plus other portable obstacles and safety equipment.

To fund the expansion, the group applied for a Resident Action Grant from United Way.

“The grants are small, but I think they’re mighty,” said United Way community investment director Lorraine Duff. “People in communitie­s have great ideas, and sometimes, they just need a little bit of money.”

The skate park started with a United Way grant of $5,000, but as the program grew, more contributo­rs chipped in. The city of Toronto contribute­d a grant, as did the province.

Right now, the skate park operates seasonally, stashing most of its equipment in storage in the fall and reassembli­ng it in the empty rink each spring. Long term, they hope for a more permanent indoor location, as well as expanded outdoor space for the warmer months.

And as the budget has grown, so has the programmin­g.

Because gear can be expensive, the skate park includes an equipment bank. It also offers courses to train skateboard­ers to be coaches. Kumaria has his Level One coaching certificat­ion, and he spends as much time guiding others through the basics as he does honing his own tricks.

“The skateboard­ing culture is really mentorship-based,” said Alex Dow, program director at the United Way-funded Malvern Family Resource Centre, which helps run the skate park. “You learn and exchange skills.”

As the skate park’s user base grows, organizers plan to further diversify its mission. A proposed on-site bike repair enterprise would help the BMX riders who use the park. Adding in a pro shop for skateboard gear would help young people develop as entreprene­urs while generating sustainabl­e revenue that would lessen the park’s dependence on grants.

Meanwhile, skateboard­ers keep coming from Malvern and beyond — as far away as Bowmanvill­e.

“It shows people are craving this kind of thing,” said Randy Pedersen, the teacher who supervises the school skateboard club. “This park became a destinatio­n park.”

 ?? MELISSA RENWICK/TORONTO STAR ?? Niveithiga Velalakan, 16, has a laugh at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute’s skateboard club.
MELISSA RENWICK/TORONTO STAR Niveithiga Velalakan, 16, has a laugh at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute’s skateboard club.

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