By David F. Rooney
Two years ago the Columbia Valley Skateboard Association’s (CVSA) proposal to build a skateboard park at Centennial Park was endorsed by Council. Today, that plan is dead and the CVSA is forced to reconsider Kovach Park, pushing it smack up against opposition from many area residents.
In a presentation to City Council on Tuesday, CVSA representative Matt Rebelo said the area that was considered at Centennial Park — the parking area by the Injured Workers’ Monument — is not suitable for development of a skateboard park because of s clay cap on top of the old landfill beneath its gravel surface.
“We have been at this for five years and we are spinning our wheels on the location,” he said.
Rebelo said that because there is no certain location for the park, which he described in his presentation as “a youth park,” the CVSA is missing grant opportunities. One major grant to $400,000 went Nelson because the Revelstoke situation is uncertain. The CVSA maintains that a modern skateboard park could fill a niche in Revelstoke’s tourism marketing plans.
Rebelo’s presentation resonated with some City Council members.
“We’ll definitely be following up,” said Councillor Linda Nixon.
“We need to get this done,” said Councillor Gary Starling.
“I’m 100% behind the skateboard park,” said Councillor Tony Scarcella.
The park — if and when it gets going — is likely to cost about $800,000. That’s money the CVSA is committed to raising — but they need an approved location. Without that there hopes and dreams will simply fade away.
The CVSA canvassed neighbourhoods around different city parks in an attempt to determine who much, or how little, local support there was for a skateboard park. It’s easy to see that Centennial Park had the most local support, followed by Kovach and Queen Elizabeth Parks.
As the most beautiful and heavily treed park in the city there is virtually no chance that Queen Elizabeth Park would be picked as the skateboard park’s future home. That pretty much leaves Kovach (unless the City backtracks and allows the park to go ahead at Centennial) as the best location but there is plenty of push-back from Southside neighbourhood residents, including Josie Woodman.
“I have to say that I think the whole culture of the park which currently has several different contented user groups throughout the day will be substantially altered by the expansion of the skateboard area which would then become dominant and change the fine balance that we now enjoy,” she said in a letter to Council.
“My feelings have not changed: I was not interested last June and am not interested now in learning more about the CVSA’s plans for Kovach. The SNG (Southside Neighbourhood Group) has spoken loudly and clearly — many times, in fact — regarding our own plans and visions for Kovach. We respectfully request that the Winter 2012 Site Plan continue to be the sole basis for Kovach Park upgrading.”
Another area resident, retired Public Works foreman Bob Melnyk, said in a separate letter that he doesn’t understand the decision to not develop the skateboard park at Centennial.
The CVSA was supposed to raise $5,000 for a geo-technical assessment of the Centennial Park location. It raised a little over $6,000.
“When they had raised the money needed, they informed the City that they were ready to proceed,” Melnyk said in his letter to Council.
At this point they were invited to a meeting with Director of Mike Thomas and Parks, Recreation and Culture Laurie Donato, he said.
“At this meeting they were informed that they could not proceed forward in the designated area. They could not disturb the clay cap over the old landfill. Therefore, they have since then come full circle back to wanting to expand Kovach Park.”
However, there is a problem.
“The problem is I was the Public Works Foreman in 1995 when we dug test holes in the ball fields, outside and around the areas mentioned,” Melnyk said. “The area that the CVSA is being denied is outside of what would be the dyke (river side). This area has been filled over 20 years ago with materials removed from under the streets that had been rebuilt. It is over 20′ deep and lies over the old original landfill from 50+ years ago.”
He said the statement that the clay must not be disturbed is puzzling because the 12-foot test holes hit crews drilled in 1995 showed there should not be a problem.
“The clay cap that is not to be disturbed in the area outside of the dyke does not exist,” he wrote. You can stand on the lower bench (the grassy area below and to the right of the Injured Workers Memorial) and look at the fill in question. The lower bench is the top of the old landfill. The Skateboard Park would not even be close to this depth. On this basis, why was the new concrete block washroom allowed to be constructed on top of the newer landfill area, yet a non-enclosed skateboard facility cannot?”
Those are good questions.
Melnyk said the neighbourhood will support retention of the existing 16,000 square foot skateboard park as part of the mix of facilities for children and seniors. But it won’t stand for an overhaul and expansion of the existing facility. That was echoed by resident Pat McMechan
“I genuinely feel badly for the CVSA as they get the run-around in trying to find a home for their planned skate park,” he said in an e-mail to Council. “However, that is not a good reason to make a poor decision in locating what will be a long-lasting skate boarding facility. The Southside community spoke pretty clearly about their vision for Kovach park and it did not include expanded skate park facilities. I agree with both you and John that I do not think that we should be re-visiting that process and that decision. We should be focused on moving forward to develop the park that this community does want to see.”
In the end, the skateboard issue was sent back to the Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee.