Vision: Chemainus' skatepark first phase of community hub

Long-dormant Chemainus Elementary School is scheduled to be torn down and the site transformed into a community hub. - John McKinley
Long-dormant Chemainus Elementary School is scheduled to be torn down and the site transformed into a community hub.
— image credit: John McKinley

A Chemainus skatepark approved last week is just the tip of a larger recreational-residential project being mulled for Mural Town’s former elementary-school site.

Up to 13 residential lots, a dog park, washrooms, community gardens, berms, landscaping, picnic tables and more could grace the 3.5-acre site handed to North Cowichan by the school board in spring.

“We have a bunch of ideas but haven’t finalized those plans yet,” Mayor Jon Lefebure told the News Leader Pictorial Monday.

“It would be a new, centrally located park for Chemainus.”

He figured North Cowichan’s new council, to be elected Nov. 15, will debate budgets for the site’s next move, including demolishing the old school.

Meanwhile, taxpayers’ $350,000 tab to design and build the skatepark for skateboarders, cyclists and scooter riders has budget approval to use capital-project reserves, he explained.

Funds for any future facilities, and leveling the old school, will come from selling up to 13 home lots, staff outlined.

Councillors basically agreed site options had been sufficiently debated, noise and other worries can be solved, and the whole park could become a community hub.

They unanimously passed staff recommendations to build the skatepark, and start as soon as possible.

Staff is to issue a construction tender, in line with designs by Mark van der Zalm and Associates, in collaboration with New Line Skate Parks.

The skatepark is targeted beside the basketball court.

Ernie Mansueti, parks and recreation manager, explained the park — debated since about 1997 — will see a mix of skateable terrain using the existing slope.

“The skatepark hardscape is comprised of approximately 50% street-style terrain (ledges, rails, stairs, sets etc.), and 50% transition-style terrain (banks, transitions, pockets, hips etc.),” his email says.

“This balance of terrain provides users a variety of terrain to progress and develop on, and offers something for all types of riders.”

There are about 530 school-age riders in the Chemainus area, estimated North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana.

Detailed design and working drawings should be done by Oct. 1, followed by a month of tender preparation and tendering, then several weeks of construction approvals, he explained. Construction will take nine to13 weeks.

While some neighbours cited noise, traffic, crime, and dropping property values would stem from the new park, others pointed to positives.

“Our equity will be jeopardized,” said Lily Young, owner of a Seaview Place B&B.

Some folks felt council’s residential-lot profits could be around $1 million, stating it is fiscally irresponsible to spend tons of money on a skatepark used by a limited number of kids.

“Please put it where it is welcome,” urged Bernice Ramsden. “We older folks have other needs.”

But Neil Owen dismissed ideas of reopening the skatepark-site debate.

“It’s important the skatepark be in the centre of the community.”

Skatepark supporter Lynda Poirer said riders are future voters, and the park will pay off in social and active lifestyles, while boosting community sustainability.

Deb Savory Wright of KidSport Cowichan noted sports are life skills, the old school site has high visibility, and riding competitions will bring money to town.

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