Skateboarders Fill City Hall - Need City Support

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
August 20th, 2009

The Slocan valley opened its new skate park this summer to rave reviews; skaters in Trail have been working hard lobbying and petitioning to get a park located and built somewhere in the smelter city. Just this week in Nelson a 19 year old boy was skating through the intersection of Ward Street and Vernon Street and struck a bus between the front and rear wheels before being dragged a short distance. Having survived the accident, the boy is now facing serious injuries in the hospital.

Having a proper location for skaters to skate, away from roads and the dangers of automobiles, is part of the motivation behind the Rossland Skate Park Association’s latest efforts to build a park in Rossland.

Registered in BC as a society since 2002, the Rossland Skate Park Association boasts a local membership now of over 250 riders. Presenting on behalf of the association, Aaron Cosbey spoke to the need for council’s support on the project at this week’s regular council meeting.

“Our mission is to build a world class skate park in Rossland,” stated Cosbey. Following a presentation on the subject, the previous council (who supported the idea in principle) asked the group to prove that they have the support in terms of members and dollars to help make the project happen.

“We’re back with some money. We’ve raised $12,000 in various fundraising events over the past few years and now it is time for the city to come in with some movement at this point.”

Backing up their presenter, eight Rossland youth, skateboards in hand filled the gallery.

The group feels there is a well-demonstrated need for a proper skate park in Rossland, citing overwhelming support for their membership drives and petitions.

“The demonstrated need is evident to anyone who hangs around Harry Lefebvre square in the summertime,” noted Cosbey. “If it were the case that kids in Rossland were out kicking soccer balls around or playing baseball on Columbia Avenue because they had no facility to pursue their chosen recreation, I don’t think the city would be long in recognizing and addressing those needs.”

Cosbey highlighted a number of ways in which a skate park fits in with Rossland’s Strategic Sustainability Plan. Along with promoting tourism, skateboarding also fosters a healthy lifestyle and creates a tourism draw. “It forms one more on a list of assets that we could add to Rossland’s list as we try to encourage in-migration of new families and it fits Rossland’s stated goal of becoming a four season destination,” added Cosbey. “We have a letter of support from Tourism Rossland to that respect.”

The presentation also cited case studies from numerous other cities and governments around North America extolling the positive benefits of building skate parks.

Bill Montgomery, Parks Director of Santa Rosa, California, was quoted as saying “Dollar for dollar, we have never had anything so successful. The park was so successful that residents on the other side of town have asked the city to build another park on their side.”

The Rossland Skate Park Association would raise the funds for the project, oversee construction and manage the opening of the park. They would then turn it over to the city as a turn-key operation. This is how the overwhelming majority of skate parks have been built across Canada–through grass roots efforts by the sports participants.

The idea of a skate park in Rossland is not a new one. In 1996 the city undertook a study on the benefits of building a park in town, and again during the last council a request was made to the city for support. The big questions in both previous attempts as well as the current request for support come down to location and cost.

Locally, both Trail and Nelson have been struggling to find suitable locations for a park, both running into “Not in my backyard,” issues along the way.

Originally, the north end of Jubilee Park was eyed as the ideal location: central, large enough and easy access. The location currently favoured by the association is in Centennial Park in lower Rossland, adjacent to the soccer and baseball field. Among the reasons for favouring that location are the fact that no residential homes are immediately adjacent to the site, it’s close to an existing recreational area, has good terrain with little to no blasting needed, it’s close to power lines should lights ever be built, and it fits in nicely with the city’s planned trail connectivity system.

Several land use issues will have to be addressed in order to make that site happen, but Cosbey believes it to be achievable. Currently there is the advanced bike skills park with a number of dirt jumps in the area. Also, the city has been considering moving the public works department to that site.

“We looked at the map and there is like 25 acres of property in there owned by the city and we’re delighted to work with Mike (Maturo) to see how we can fit in there,” said Cosbey.

The size is of the park is variable depending on the chosen site and design but could range anywhere between Castlegar’s size of 10,600 square feet and Victoria’s at 3,500 square feet. The cost could run from roughly $200,000 to $300,000. The group is hopeful that local contributions from contractors, parents, council and other groups around town could fund the project.

The delegations requests will now come back before council at the next regular council meeting for discussion.

“We are ready to dedicate whatever effort it takes to make this happen, but we cannot go any further with this without council’s cooperation,” closed Cosbey. “We cannot approach the large funders that we need to undertake an initiative of this type without having some kind of a guaranteed plan. We can’t get the kids more interested until we get some kind of support from the city. The ball is therefore in your court.”

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