Just over a month ago, I wrote in an editorial that holding a ‘design’ meeting on a proposed skate park when there would surely be angry adults in the room would be a bad idea. It was.
On Wednesday evening, the District of Peachland held an open house that was advertised with the tag line ‘Let’s build a skate park Peachland’. Residents in the area of the proposed Lambly Park location were invited to provide input.
Sure enough, one teenager stood up to make a point, a San Clemente Avenue resident got snarky, words were exchanged, the man was chastised, the teen became indignant and it all made me think to myself, “I told you so.”
Council and district staff deserve to have their knuckles rapped for the open house escapade. It was stupid to invite kids to attend, to talk about skate park design, when everyone knew the discussion was going to be all about the location.
Mayor Fielding sent a confusing message when it came to consultation. On one hand he said public input would be welcomed. On the other hand he said there isn’t much sense in talking about location if other acceptable locations don’t exist. Council had the chance to back a motion to seek input before making any financial decisions. That motion was defeated, but soon enough word went out that, of course the town wants to hear from residents about location.
It was said during the open house that Lambly Park was ruled out as a location for a skate park because there was not safe access across the highway. While technically true, the real question is why was Cousins Park chosen?
The answer is that it is a much better location for the kids. There’s washrooms there, there’s a bus stop there. In the summer there is a concession stand across the street and Swim Bay for cooling off. Lambly and Cousins were the only two choices for a location and one was better than the other.
It was also said that adult baseball could not be played at Cousins Park if a skate park was built there. That came from Cheryl Wiebe, director of community services, who said the town has been warned by its ‘risk manager’ that it would be too risky to have kids in close proximity to fly balls.
Understand the district does not have a ‘risk manager’, unless council has hired a new employee and neglected to tell anyone. There are people out there, notably insurance carriers, who love to give their opinion on matters of risk. No doubt they would like to see warnings on toothpicks like, ‘Sharp object, use at own risk.’
Wiebe did say that council could ignore the risk manager’s recommendation. That’s a nice way of saying, “At least that way, my butt won’t be in a sling if things go bad.”
It was noted that council has set aside $225,000 for a skate park and that the old Cousins Park design incorporated features to mitigate the possibility of a kid getting beaned in the head. Wiebe’s point was that the Cousins location would be more costly to build and if mitigation features were put into a Cousins skate park, there would be less money left to build something for youth to skate on.
Isn’t it odd that there was no mention of a ‘risk manager’ seven years ago? Isn’t it odd that Lambly Park was apparently not chosen because of the risk to youth of jumping the highway and therefore the much safer alternative of Cousins Park was chosen, but a little over a half decade later, suddenly Cousins Park is too risky?
Isn’t it at all concerning that putting kids in a skate park in the outfield of the only ball park downtown is far too big a risk without some kind of major financial outlay, yet it is perfectly okay for the same kids to walk along the Beach Avenue sidewalk mere feet away from the old skate park location? Does this risk manager have statistics to show that skateboarders attract fly balls but walkers, kids on bikes and babies in strollers don’t?
Isn’t it perplexing that a sport that is played for two and a half months of the year and only on Wednesday mornings, Friday nights and Sundays during that time, takes precedence over a youth activity that could see kids getting exercise for nine months of the year? Isn’t it troubling that, except for a handful of events, Cousins Park sits idle for 7.5 months?
It was said Wednesday night that skate parks run about $40 per square foot and Peachland is planning on a 5,000 square foot park. That’s slightly less than the area taken up by the tennis courts. That’s pretty small.
Oh, but the town only has $225,000 for a skate park. Really? That’s what council budgeted, but that’s not what the town has. When they were elected, a skate park wasn’t on the radar for council members. The town got a cheque for nearly a half million dollars from Treegroup to go toward amenities and suddenly a skate park became priority number one. Council just chose to budget $225,000. It could choose any number it wants.
Lambly Park is not a bad location for a skate park, unless you’re a resident of San Clemente Avenue. However, Cousins Park has always been and continues to be the best location.
However you feel on the subject, I urge one and all to send their comments to council. They are being accepted until the end of June. The skate park showdown is expected in July.
We shall see.