Trail skate park plans losing its momentum

Trail's campaign for a skate park, after grant applications, site scouting and park designs, seems to be running out of steam.

The campaign to create a skate park in Trail seems to be running low on juice.

There are some keeners involved with the project who are selling t-shirts and writing grant applications, but the city-dominated process has been sagging in recent months. Where has the most recent skate park drive gone so far?

After taking on the project at the behest of youthful petitioners, the city paid for a feasibility study. Council then ignored the recommendation of the consultant and advisory committee that the facility be located at Gyro Park and decided to make it part of urban renewal for the Gulch.

The city followed up with design work for a park to be located on a strip of vacant land behind the truck chain-up area on Rossland Avenue, and then sought funding under a one-time provincial recreation project program.

While Nelson received $400,000 for a skate park, Trail was turned down. The reasons for the differing results are unknown but you can’t blame traditional pork barrel politics, as neither community is part of a constituency that voted for the government in recent provincial elections or is likely to so next time.

That is pretty much where the project sits.

The advisory committee, chaired by a city councillor, has barely met since before the fall election. Council would like the committee to raise money for the project but this is a difficult mandate as no level of municipal financial support has been designated.

The committee has applied for about half of the $300,000 in Columbia Basin Trust’s Local Initiatives funding to be dispensed by local municipalities and electoral areas this year. Given the malaise left by the break down of regional funding for recreation it will be interesting to see how this appeal goes.

The location remains an issue for the non-councillors on the advisory committee, who think the chain-up area is generally unappealing and will be a concern for parents of younger users.

I think the location has great potential to be turned into an interesting urban space that would reflect the edgy side of the skateboarding mystic.

It is also located on the community’s main thoroughfare and right beside the fire station, where emergency assistance is available around the clock.

As for concerns that skate park users would be exposed to drugs and unseemly behaviour at that location, including a mild-looking sex shop across the street, kids who are interested know where to find drugs (everywhere) and porn (all over the Internet).

Former Rossland Mayor Les Carter has prepared an interesting survey for the Rossland Skatepark Association on the experiences of 40 British Columbia communities that have parks. (The association, while possessing more cohesion and drive than Trail’s advisory committee, is in about the same position financially. The survey is located on its web site: skaterossland.com)

Some of the key insights gathered from other communities are:

• the facility should be located “front and centre” to express community pride and acceptance, make the park accessible to and not marginalize its users, and so that others can keep an eye on the goings on

• the park should be part of a “neighbourhood,” but not necessarily a residential area. Noise tends not to be an issue for neighbours located at least 100 metres a way, or less if the park is well designed

• only 10 per cent of communities reported problems at or around their skate parks and these tend to reflect the communities’ youth issues in general

• “kids are all different but they all deserve recreational opportunities that suit their needs;” communities that accept these differences and reflect them in their rec policies generally have a happier relationship with their youth

• an “open, community-building process” for planning and building the facility  results in successful parks; most communities report good usage of their facilities.

• “in deciding where to put the park, local government should consider all the relevant factors, differentiate between reasonable concerns and unsubstantiated fears, be brave enough to make the decision, and proactively plan to make it work.”

Unlike the council’s proposal to place a skate park at Gyro Park a decade ago, this go-around has been a largely closed process led by city staff.

As for the location, it could meet the criteria cited in the Rossland report, but right now is seen by potential users and their supporters as a dumping ground for the hopes of skateboarders looking for a place to gather and ride their dreams.

The work goes on but this is not a best recipe success. The enthusiasts can only keep working and keep the faith that in another decade the city will not still be talking about creating a skate park.

Raymond Masleck is a retired long-time reporter for the Times. He is president of the Visac Gallery and Trail District Arts Council, vice-president of a local seniors’ housing society, and active in the Rotary Club of Trail.

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