This editorial begins with two disclosures.
1. I was the president of the Board for Life Society. The group was behind the efforts to build a skateboard park in Cousins Park. About five years ago, the project collapsed and the group folded.
2. I have been assisting the District of Peachland in regards to building a skate park in Lambly Park.
Approximately five weeks ago, I was approached by Coun. Vern Moberg, who told me that council was considering building a skate park in Lambly Park. Moberg asked if I had any documents, including skate park design company contact information, still available from my Board for Life Society days. I did and a few days later I presented Moberg with a four-inch binder containing all of the records of the society.
About a week ago, Cheryl Wiebe asked me if I could put together a letter explaining what process the society went through that ultimately led to the selection of Newline Skate Parks as the design company for the Cousins Park skate park. I reviewed the documents in the aforementioned binder and wrote the letter.
Although I shared information in my possession, I am not in any way involved in the current iteration of a Peachland skate park.
Is Lambly Park the right location for a skate park? It’s the best location if the alternative is no skate park at all.
Peachland council has decided to spend up to $225,000 on building a skateboard park in Lambly Park. About eight years ago, council agreed to Cousins Park as the location for a skate park. That project eventually died.
It would be worthwhile to compare the two locations and talk about what makes a great location for a skateboard park. Although the Board for Life Society (the group formerly trying to build a skate park) chose Cousins Park as the best location, Lambly Park came in second.
Here’s a look at the criteria Board for Life came up with when trying to find a location:
First and foremost, whatever land is used for a skate park must belong to the municipality. In a town of Peachland’s size, purchasing a property for a skate park would likely be prohibitively expensive, so municipal land is the only viable choice. There are not that many options available.
Reaonably flat land
This requirement reduces the number of locations possible.
Large enough property
A proper skate park has to be big enough. It’s not just about building a concrete pad and putting some obstacles on it. There has to be enough room for enough skaters and long enough clear runways so skaters can get up to speed before doing their tricks. Skate parks come in all sizes but the good ones are measured in thousands, if not tens of thousands, of square feet.
Before there was a Board for Life Society, the Peachland Wellness Centre held a meeting about a skate park. RCMP was represented. The officer in attendance told the group that, from a safety standpoint, a skate park must be visible, not hidden. There is a prevailing sense that skate parks create trouble and therefore they should be tucked away behind a building or off in a little used area. The group was warned by RCMP that doing so in Peachland would cause problems. To limit problems, the best solution is to build a skate park in a highly visible area where there is lots of traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian. In short, build a skate park next to a major road.
Ease of access
There’s no sense in building a skate park in a location that is tough to get to. It should be centrally located, where parents can drop kids off, near a bus stop and preferably accessible by sidewalks/trails.
Just taking into account the five criteria above, Board for Life reduced the list of all possibilities down to two: Cousins and Lambly Parks.
Other possibilities were MacKinnon Park (next to Trepanier Manor), which is very flat and quite large, but tucked away at the edge of the district, not accessible by bus, not in a high traffic area and without sidewalks/trails.
Turner Park was a non-starter, since it was not and is still not owned by the municipality.
A number of people thought behind the Peachland Elementary School would be a good location, but it is privately owned land, not on a main road and hidden from view.
Heritage Park is too small.
This park is flat, relatively large and holds the town’s tennis courts. It is adjacent to Hwy. 97 and a well travelled sidewalk, so a skate park would be very visible. It is close to bus stops (13th Street and the mall). There is a water fountain nearby. There are no public washrooms in the area, although the washrooms at PetroCan could be used. The proximity of the mall means skaters would have a place to buy a drink or snack. The location is central and accessible.
The biggest drawback to Lambly Park is its proximity to the highway. Eight years ago, there was the tunnel at Trepanier Creek to allow safe movement of youth from the school/mall to Lambly Park, but even with it there, kids routinely jumped the highway, putting themselves at risk. It was the biggest drawback to the location and of great concern to the society.
Recently, a controlled crosswalk was installed at Clements Crescent, creating a second safe way to get across the highway. Whether that would limit highway jumping remains to be seen.
From the society’s point of view, Cousins was the best location. It is large and flat. It is centrally located, next to a bus stop and a sidewalk. It is highly visible being on Beach Avenue. There are hundreds of people walking by every day. There are public washrooms across the street at Swim Bay and at the community centre. The concession stand at Swim Bay offers drinks and food and there is an added bonus in the summer when hot skateboarders could walk across the street and jump in the lake to cool off.
Drawbacks to Cousins Park were that, during the short slopitch season, a skateboarder might get beened in the head by a softball, and ongoing misinformation about the proposed skateboard park’s effect on the park’s ball diamond.
One thing Cousins Park had over Lambly Park is the proximity of residences. The location in Cousins Park, between the ball diamond’s outfield and the 50-Plus Activity Centre, put a building between the skate park and nearby homes. In fact, only two homes could be considered ‘close’ to that location. In contrast, Lambly Park backs onto San Clemente Avenue — an entire street of homes.
A couple of other points about location:
- No matter where it is built, controversy will follow.
- It is likely $225,000 will build a skate park in Lambly Park. It is unknown if that amount would build the original design in Cousins Park, due to the complexity involved in that location.
- If the $225,000 figure is negotiable, council should be looking at both locations. Although the price of the former design escalated to $400,000 (mostly due to rising costs during the 2007 peak building boom), no one has asked if $225,000 or close to it could build that very same design today in Cousins Park.
- It is likely council decided to go with Lambly and forsake Cousins because of the public outcry against the Cousins location years ago. What they might have forgot is that when a skate park was first proposed, people found out Lambly Park was being looked at and the residents along San Clemente Avenue wrote letters to the editor and phoned council members too.