Stop talking and start building a skatepark, Chemainiacs tell council

A skater gets some air at the skatepark at Kerry Park in Mill Bay. While Duncan, Mill Bay, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith have all had skateparks for some time, the Chemainus project has stalled due to squabbling about location. - Mike D’Amour/file
A skater gets some air at the skatepark at Kerry Park in Mill Bay. While Duncan, Mill Bay, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith have all had skateparks for some time, the Chemainus project has stalled due to squabbling about location.
— image credit: Mike D’Amour/file

Chemainiacs are tired of talking about where to build a skatepark for mural town's 100-some boarders and bike riders.

That's why Friday's awareness event in Waterwheel Park is simply called Park The Park.

Lynda Poirier organized the free fete in frustration about local foot-dragging about where to build the board-and-bike facility.

One place liked by many families, riders, and mayor, is at the former Chemainus Elementary School near Chemainus High.

"But they're still fighting about where to put our new library," she said, noting North Cowichan council has been supportive of skatepark plans pitched about 10 years ago.

"Let's park it and get this over with. Kids like to ride boards and bikes, but there's just nowhere for them to go.

"I just got mad — let's get the kids back in the conversation."

Rider Casey Rhodes, 15, is on board.

"The skatepark should be either by the beach, or by the old elementary school.

"There aren't many trees around either of those places so there wouldn't be (slippery) leaves all over the place."

Rhodes called the decade-long location talks between council and residents "crazy."

"It's taken so long with how many kids there are in this town that do that stuff," he said, urging action by Mayor Jon Lefebure and council under the town's revitalization plan.

"We need a skatepark, and fast."

But speedy answers about school grounds were derailed by Cowichan's ex-school board, explained Lefebure.

"I thought the elementary school site beside the high school was the best location," said Lefebure, booked to speak Friday at 7 p.m.

Council probed several skateboard sites during the past decade, "and we had negative reaction if it was near anyone's backyard."

Places also debated were St. Joseph's School ballfields, Fuller Lake Arena, Askew Park, and Waterwheel Park.

Riding is banned on school grounds, so riders use streets, which is dangerous, Lefebure said.

"Eventually, we settled on the (old school) site, but ran into a brick wall with the school board over things like insurance and noise at night.

"Council said we'd take responsibility for those things, but couldn't get to square one with school trustees."

However, Cowichan's trustees were recently sacked by Victoria for tendering an illegal deficit budget.

That leaves school-site decisions with B.C. trustee Mike McKay, as municipal and SD 79 staff chew on the old school property.

"I hope we can move this skatepark along with McKay's help," Lefebure said

McKay sounded receptive, but wanted facts and figures — an ultimately a recommendation — from his staff about the school site.

"I'd be interested in getting a report about what all the variables are," he said of lighting, insurance, noise, access, litter and more if the school district is to sell or lease the site to council.

"Any board has to be open-minded to see what the facts are. When kids are involved in ownership of the plan, things tend to go well."

Thetis Islander Poirier and her daughters organized Park the Park as many of their friends ride.

"Park the Park is a rally to garner support and show the culture of skateboarding," she said.

"We have a mini-park set up with a half pipe, ramps and rails. Front Side board shop in Duncan has arranged for sponsor give-away prizes, such as skate-brand paraphernalia.

"There will be also be a pro-riders' demo and time for all riders to ride."

Bands on deck include Duncan headliner Lucy Mistreated, and Kaitlin Greaves.

Arlene Robinson, of the town's busy Cowichan Neighbourhood House, is pumped about the park.

"There's $350,000 sitting there (with council) waiting for a skatepark, but every time they choose somewhere, people get up in arms," she said of some residents riled about potential noise, crowds and crime if the park is plopped nearby.

"The biggest problem has been 'Not in my backyard.'

"That's too bad because it's better to have the kids riding at a skatepark than skating all over town," said Robinson.

"Council has bent over backward. Now, as a community, we just have to say 'Go to it.'

"Life's about compromises."

One compromise would see a concrete skatepark built at the former Chemainus elementary site adjacent the high school where council has also mulled erecting a new community centre, she explained.

"At this point, it's probably the best site. The room is there, and enough community eyes so there's surveillance of the park (activities)."

Meanwhile, rider Rhodes urged council to make a site decision soon, after attending Park The Park.

"I hope it has some impact."


Your ticket

What: Park The Park skatepark rally

When: Sept. 7, 4 to 9 p.m.

Where: Waterwheel Park, Chemanius

Tickets: free


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