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.”