This letter to Council by Southside resident Daryl Ross encapsulates the brewing controversy over the skate park envisioned for construction at Kovach Park.
Below is an email I penned in late 2013, just prior to the past council’s vote on whether or not to support the Kovach Park site as the on-again/off-again/on-again location for the new skate park proposal being brought forward from the CVSA. While I still believe that the location and urgency for site selection at that time was largely manufactured by one of the local media outlets and specific politicians, I did agree to put my grievances aside after the vote and contribute the best as I could to make sure the path going forward was one paved with optimism, cooperation and transparency. This commitment was also upheld by the CVSA and city planning and parks & rec.
Not a single resident adjacent to Kovach Park supported the site as being the new location for the grossly over-sized, newly envisioned regional skate park. Not one. The Southside Group was invited to a private meeting with Laurie Donato, Dean Strachen and the NewLine Skate park contractor as well as representatives from the CVSA, on November 27, 2014. This meeting was arranged to gather input on the proposed site plan and take residents input into consideration. The overwhelming majority of residents (close to 18 or more in attendance) at this meeting did not support Site Plan #3 and by the end of the meeting, everyone at the table had agreed that some version of what you were presented as Site Plan #4, would be drafted for circulation and feedback. I have reviewed the video of the presentation Laurie Donato made to council on February 24, 2015, (See Council Video 1:35:50) and while she does state that “some of the neighbours do not support” Site Plan #3, she has not fairly represented the feedback she received from residents in her presentation to council. When asked by a Councillor about the feedback she received from residents with respect to their preference between site options, she goes on to say that there were only four outspoken residents in favour of option #4 and that the rest of them “didn’t care”. This statement is entirely false and misleading in my opinion. The fact that a resident from the Southside Group was not invited to take part in the technical review process is not only an oversight, but in my opinion a deliberate tactic to remove any formal record of opposition from the process.
Further to this, as far as I can tell, one of the last emails the Southside Group received from Parks & Rec was around December 12, 2014… it was an email thanking everyone for their input into the new site plan (#4), and a promise to send “a revised site plan based on the last round of comments received” and to try “to get the changes to everyone before Christmas at the latest”… that letter never came. On February 10, 2015, I emailed Laurie Donato asking her for an update on where things were at with the planning process. I received a reply from her on February 12, stating that NewLine was hoping to have something ready to present in early March. She made no reference to the upcoming presentation she was making to council with respect to the site plan options, or that there was going to be a vote to finalize the matter. To most of the residents understanding, based on our last communications with Parks & Rec, our input into Site Plan #4 was being used to move the project forward, as we had not heard otherwise. To my knowledge, the residents of the area were not given prior notification of the council presentation either (I found out about it after-the-fact by reading the paper). Given the past relationship between local residents and the City over the contentiousness on the entirely unsuitable Kovach Park location for the new skate park, I think I speak for the Southside Group when I say that promises made by the city to local residents, for a more transparent and inclusive planning process for the skate park have not been lived up to… again. Taking all of this into consideration while looking back at the bungled process of settling on the Kovach Park site in the first place, doesn’t give me the confidence that this sort of slight-of-hand planning and Parks & Rec administration isn’t endemic.
At this point, for me, this is not so much about Site Plan #3 vs. Site Plan #4, as it is about the way in which the City is being represented through these sorts of planning projects… once again the word ‘endemic’ rings in my ears. As a resident that owns property that backs directly onto the current skate park, I am once again deeply concerned and disappointed with the apparent lip service local residents are receiving on the planning process for the park. The entire skate park/Kovach debacle, coupled with my recent interactions with city planning while building a house in the neighbourhood, really has me questioning the level of professionalism of some of the city staff central to these sorts of reviews and projects. It bothers me that your decision to endorse Site Plan #3 was made based on a skewed presentation and the idea that the priority for planning my families neighbourhood park now centres on the ability for law enforcement to have proper sight-lines to ensure the safety of my kids while they use the facilities – this was the only reason you all voted for option #3 after all. What does this obvious fact have to say about the Kovach Park location as a whole… quiet residential neighbourhood park on dead-end street now requires police presence for ongoing crime prevention? It also bothers me greatly that actions and commitments made by city staff are not being lived up to and that no explanation is given or responsibility taken by the individuals seemingly in charge of the various processes. If I could have my way, I would ask the new council to reconsider the entire project and ask them to drastically scale back the size and scope (see original email from 2013 below), or move the facility to far more appropriately zoned location as should have been done by the previous council. Given that this is highly unlikely to happen, I would like to ask you to review the history of this project from it’s original proposal more than 5 years ago, and impress upon the city staff managing the process that it is vitally important for them to maintain an open dialogue and transparent process as they promised and to accurately represent the feedback they are receiving from residents when making formal presentations to elected officials.
What follows is Daryl’s December 8, 2013, e-mail to senior City staff and then-members of City Council and members of the Southside Neighbourhood Group:
I have attached a copy of the Lethbridge Skate Park Master Plan (LSMP) and I’m imploring all of you to read it prior to your vote on Revelstoke’s future skatepark this Tuesday. The two and a half page council report and recommendation released last Friday by Revelstoke Parks, Recreation and Culture, contains only a fraction of the information council needs to make an informed decision on this topic and many irrelevant points that only complicate the process. The lack of community inclusion and consultation with stakeholders in the current process is unacceptable. The entire process needs to be reset and a proper community driven process that creates opportunities for all user groups and stakeholders to have an active voice in the process needs to be initiated.
The Lethbridge plan follows the exact process outlined by the Skaters for Public Skateparks (SPS) organization I mentioned in my previous letter. The existing skatepark in Kovach Park was built at a time when very few houses existed in the area. Using current planning standards that have been established by the skateboarding community itself, the only suitable skateboard facility that fits into the existing Kovach Park and surrounding residential area is a Skate Spot (1500-6000 sq ft), not a 20 000 square foot regional skate park.
The Lethbridge Skate Park Master Plan outlines the exploration and inclusive planning process for a new skate park as it needs to take place in Revelstoke. If the CVSA is capable of securing funding for a $800K regional skate park and the city is willing to contribute $50K of seed-money to help kick-start the project, surely the CVSA can find the funding to complete a proper needs assessment and planning process.
I would like to highlight a few sections of the Lethbridge plan:
2.1 Understanding the Need
– This section outlines the process for determining the size of your user groups and establishing appropriate square footage needs.
– Has the CVSA shown that a 20 000 square foot facility is required for the size of Revestoke’s user group?
2.4 Current Regional Facilities
Brooks Skate Park – Brooks, Alberta
Population: 23 430 (2011)
Skate Park Size: 13 000 sq. ft.
Location: Central location off the highway in a commercial use transition zone.
Canmore Skate Park – Canmore, Alberta
Population: 12 288 (2011)
Skate Park Size: 17 000 sq. ft.
Location: Next to hockey arena, not adjacent to a residential area.
2.6 Public Process
– Open house facilitated by report consultants and attended by the community at large, the skateboard association and other stakeholders.
3.1 Skate Park Typologies
– Skate Spot (1500-6000 sq. ft.)
“Found in a neighbourhood park or along an established paved trail.”
“Often located within a residential setting.”
– Community/City Wide Skate Park (12 000-40 000 sq. ft.)
“Best suited to geographically central locations… and are best suited in a mixed zone of residential, commercial and institutional land uses.”
“Located in a central location in relation to the entire City.”
3.3 Successful Skate Park Development Principles
Chinook Winds Skate Plaza – Airdrie, Alberta
Population: 42 564 (2011)
Skatepark Size: 22 000 sq. ft.
Location: Integrated into a new park design, not adjacent to a residential area.
Brandon Skate Plaza – Brandon, Manitoba
Popluation: 53 229 (2011)
Skatepark Size: 25 000 sq. ft.
Location: Urban setting downtown, not adjacent to a residential area.
Taber Youth Park – Taber, Alberta
Population: 8 104 (2011)
Skate Park Size: 12 000 sq. ft.
Location: Central location in the downtown core, not adjacent to a residential area.
Thomas Haney Youth Park – Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Population: 76 052
Skate Park Size: 17 000 sq. ft.
Location: First active school yard skate park in Canada.
3.4 General Site Selection Guidelines
– “Advisory group made up of City staff and community stakeholders.”
3.5 Anticipate Development Costs
– “For planning purposes, it is recommended that municipalities use an overall figure of $45 per square foot plus design fees when budgeting for future developments.”
– Joints, Cracks and Slabs: “Many skate parks are built as floating-slab concept… this makes it possible to avoid expensive slab engineering and structural preparations.”
Appendix D – Site Selection Criteria
-Compatibility with Adjacent Uses: “The skate park must be compatible with the surrounding properties… more successful in urban settings… mixed use developments and smaller commercial areas.”
-Setback or Buffer from Residential Areas: “… location has a proper buffer…setback from backyards and homes…”
Moving forward with any of the recommendations in the Parks, Recreation and Culture report is unacceptable. A process that follows the Lethbridge example is the only lasting, sustainable solution for any future skate park development in Revelstoke.