The faces have changed over a decade, but the message remains the same.
Most of the high schoolers who gathered at city hall Monday afternoon were in grade school when they first heard about the Trail skatepark plans.
Ten years later, and still no skatepark prompted the group of 20 J.L. Crowe Secondary students to sit in chambers and request city politicians consider the project during current budget talks.
The impromptu gathering of mostly 17 and 18-year olds reinforced ideas presented by Patrick Audet and Mike Vanness on behalf of the Society for Friends of the Trail Sk8 Park.
“Speaking personally, we see the City of Trail council forming a budget that possibly ignores youth again,” said Audet, a retired School District 20 (SD20) principal. “We understand that the city has other large-scale budget items that are taking your focus. But we think you have opportunity to make a difference for the young people in our community.
“And the youth of Trail could be let down again by your focus on other things,” he added. “We remind you to invest in young people and create a community that supports all types of families and not just those involved in organized sports and organized clubs.”
The floor opened for discussion between the teenagers and Trail council regarding matters such as where the students reside, the skatepark design, and potential usage, as well as cost-related revisions to the $550,000 plan.
But it was Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson’s query that could have the most impact on maintaining teen interest in the project moving forward.
The four-term councillor has served as city representative on the skatepark committee since inception. Over time, she has observed a waning of support in relation to poor turnouts at sponsored events.
“We’ve had several events with regards to skateboarding up at the Gulch site,” she said. “I was there attending them all, and Patrick (Audet) you’ve been there, and can attest we haven’t had much success.
“I don’t think I’ve seen any of you there in support,” Gattafoni Robinson continued. “So, my question is, ‘How come?’”
The “Grinding in the Gulch” event held Sept. 10 attracted less than five participants, all under 10-years old.
Brandon Erback,13, was attending council for the first time. He suggested any future events be advertised at J.L. Crowe because he heard about the skatepark opportunities after the fact.
“I’ve not heard about these before,” Erback explained. “I say if you want to get the word out go straight to the school because then kids will go home and tell their parents, their parents will tell friends, and more people will know about it.”
Madison Williams, 14, an avid long boarder and first time council guest, explained her parent’s ongoing concern over the location of the skatepark.
“My family priority is that the Gulch isn’t providing a safe enough location for children,” she said. “My parents are against me going near that area, and also, I’ve never heard of the events.”
Vanness, Crowe’s vice principal, addressed council saying the large group of students in chambers gathered quickly once he put word out at the high school that morning.
“There’s more skateboarders today that there ever has been,” he said. “As a teacher at J.L. Crowe, that is the trend I have noticed. There’s long-boarding, scooters and more girls picking up skateboards.”
He maintains that at least a few hundred of the area’s youth are boarders of some type, and it’s not just for recreation. Vanness says the boards are a mode of transportation.
“A five-year community plan works very well but not when the community was told this 10 years ago,” he added. “The time is now, these are great kids and they deserve a skatepark.”
As council moves into the capital plan budget next week, the skatepark remains on the list of considerations, Trail Mayor Mike Martin told the Trail Times Tuesday morning.
“That doesn’t mean it will be considered for 2015,” he said. “But the skatepark is certainly part of the longer term capital plan.”
What he heard emphatically during the Monday meeting was the project can’t be built in stages, and it’s an “either you’re all in or you’re all out” situation.
“I must say that it was a delight to have the kids there yesterday,” Martin said. “I think there’s a business side to this decision and there’s also an emotional side. And there’s no doubt that having the kids there helped get that message across to council.”