With renewed energy and enthusiasm, proponents of a new skateboard park for the West Shore are making their rounds to the five councils in hopes of garnering support at the municipal level.
The first presentation, to View Royal council last week, elicited positive comments from Mayor David Screech and his fellow councillors, winding up with an agreement to send a letter of support to West Shore Parks and Recreation and the other municipalities.
“Culturally, this isn’t the battle of skate park creation that happened in the early to mid-90s,” said Westshore Skatepark Coalition spokesperson Jimmy Miller, a skater himself and a longtime advocate who once lobbied Victoria council to loosen skateboarding rules downtown, in an interview later.
“Skateboarding … is something that is ever present. We have people such as ourselves that are parents of future users, but also, grandparents are out there skateboarding.”
With much of the mystery around skate park activities such as boarding, BMX biking and inline skating a thing of the past, he said, this campaign comes down to finding people keen on “helping this user group be facilitated, it’s as simple as that.”
Miller said a recent progress update and information session, held for potential park users and other supporters, went well and elicited some new ideas. Part of the session saw attendees encouraged to write their dream vision for a new park on a large sheet of paper.
“I think when you gather people in a situation where there may not be hope, you’re battle-ready to pump up everybody’s morale. But everybody had open ears, and although slightly deflated they were not defeated,” he said of the Jan. 17 meeting. “Everybody was ready to accept where we’re at now and move forward with the consultation with the municipalities.”
The previous skate park off Jenkins Road on the Belmont secondary lands was removed some months ago. Its fate was confirmed not long after Sobey’s purchased the property from the Sooke School District.
While progress may appear to have been rather slow toward finding a new site, West Shore Parks and Recreation has been active in working with Miller and other skateboarders and advocates.
Addressing councils and securing land is one of the next steps in the process, he told View Royal council at their Jan. 19 meeting.
Coun. John Rogers encouraged Miller and his compatriots to bring their ideas to View Royal’s parks master plan workshop, scheduled for Feb. 3. As well, he suggested that an area at Watkiss Way and West Burnside Road, near the archery range, might be a suitable location for a skate park.
Screech said West Shore Parks and Recreation in Colwood would be the most ideal from View Royal’s perspective, since the Town is already paying into the organization.
Bobbi Neal, community development co-ordinator for West Shore Parks and Recreation, said a report would be created for the municipalities once the group has presented its plan to all of them.
Coun. Heidi Rast suggested the Town may be willing to donate toward a future skate park. She also questioned whether several smaller skate parks, each accommodating the varying skill levels, might be an answer to the land issue.
Miller pointed out that the skate community doesn’t necessarily separate people by skill level, but sounded open to the idea. He expanded on that concept later in an interview.
“It doesn’t have to be this humongous skate park meant to meet every single skill level and every type of obstacle dynamic,” he said. “Hey, that’d be great if we could, but financially that’s (not necessarily feasible) … Why not do little satellite skate parks in addition to more of a centralized hub? We’re game for any type of idea.”
Fellow park proponent and skater Daniel Opdendries echoed that sentiment.
“Right now we need to start with land,” he said. “Once we have land, I believe we can get the fundraising in gear,. We can look for municipal dollars and start applying for grants more readily, and we can get the community group fundraising money directed toward these projects as well.”