West Shore skateboarders may soon have to find a new place to ollie and grind, with the sale of the Belmont secondary property threatening the future of the area’s only publicly funded and maintained skatepark.
The sale of the property by School District 62 is expected to be finalized by the end of this month and West Shore Parks and Recreation’s lease with the district for the skatepark land expires March 27. At present there is no plan in place to renew the lease.
The district is leasing back the land until at least June 2015. Parks and recreation board chair Rob Martin said either a new deal will have to be met or the park will have to be ripped out. The two sides are working with the buyer to find a way to leave the skatepark where it is for now.
“It could work out, but by the same token, if the new owners choose not to renew the lease, even from a temporary standpoint, we’ll have to remove the park,” Martin said. “Once the deal goes through, we have to either get a new lease immediately or we have to shut the park down.”
Sidestep Skate School owner Debbie Qayum said the loss of the skateboard park would be devastating to the community which has grown around it. Sidestep hosts a number of events at the park and teaches lessons there in the summer.
“We need something out here. Myself, I’ve had over 800 people through my facility, so there is a huge demand,” she said. “It is very well used.”
Qayum is encouraging those who use the park to stand up for it and approach the school board and the City of Langford to ask that it remain where it is, at least for this summer.
“Be more proactive, rather than reactive. That’s basically the message that I’ve given them,” she said. “We’re hoping something happens by the end month.”
Merrick Orr is a talented young skateboarder from Sooke who uses the Langford park almost daily. He said if they take away the skatepark it’s going to leave a lot of young people without a place to go when not at school.
“It sucks that they’re moving it, it’s awesome that it’s here,” Orr said.
“There are so many people that come here every day and have so much fun here.”
In the meantime West Shore Parks and Recreation is turning its attention to how and where to build a new skatepark. Even if the current facility’s life is extended, it will eventually have to be removed as the land is developed.
To address that situation, a committee has been struck to tackle finding a home for the park and coming up with the money to build it.
“We are 100-per-cent supportive of a skateboard park in the Western Communities,” Martin said. “We have to find a place that’s easily accessible to youth, but also very visible.”
He estimates a new park will cost between $250,000 and $500,000, enough to build a modern, module-style park with movable components. West Shore Parks and Recreation will be looking to the private sector for fundraising opportunities and donated labour.