Skateboarder Alexander Kotanko was a regular at the West Shore Skatepark back when it was located behind the old Belmont school. The skatepark was demolished last year and no replacement site has been found.

Wheels continue turning on skatepark efforts

Nothing imminent for skateboarders on the West Shore

It was October of last year when West Shore skaters regretfully said goodbye to the region’s only skatepark, located on the grounds of the former Belmont secondary, which will soon be a major Langford town centre.

Thirteen months later, the president of the Westshore Skatepark Coalition said the immediate situation remains bleak.

“Thankfully we’re moving into the winter season where the pressure is less,” said Jimmy Miller, who has been involved with the Coalition since the old skatepark was demolished.

The loss of a skate park doesn’t necessarily mean lower participation in skateboarding on the West Shore. Miller explained that it simply means skaters are seeking other places to pull off their favourite jumps and tricks.

“It’s going to keep on going,” he said. “You can skateboard anywhere, but the allowance of that is low. You’re always going to be on private property if you’re not in a skatepark.”

West Shore skaters – Miller is among them – have been frequenting the skate parks in Vic West and Sooke to get their fix, but parking lots, school yards and parking garages remain popular places as well, a practice that isn’t always tolerated.

One of the Coalition’s platforms is that skateparks should be community-based, allowing kids – and their parents – easy access.

“One of the hopes we have is that we can sell the idea of satellite skate parks,” Miller said. “You can take the pressure off of a municipality by offering something smaller. But the real sell, or the real pitch, is to do it in more than one municipality.”

The Coalition recently gained non-profit status and has been a more cohesive group in response to the removal of the Belmont skate park, according to Miller.

“We’ve done some fundraising, done some events, done user consultation groups and we’ve presented to each of the municipalities,” he said.

While each West Shore municipality has shown support in principle for the skatepark, Miller wonders if the situation is a bit of a “hot potato” for local governments, referring to the responsibility in setting up a skatepark, including the cost, land, risk and liability.

Miller sent a letter to Colwood council early last month and the item was discussed at their Oct. 24 meeting.

“As of right now, Colwood feels very hopeful to us, but it’s at the initiation stages,” he said.

During a five-minute discussion of the item, Coun. Cynthia Day said she believes the best avenue towards making a skatepark happen remains a partnership with West Shore Parks and Recreation. She added that finding a proper space could be a problem.

“The stumbling block appears to be that the grounds at Westshore Parks and Recreation are pretty much full. There’s not really a lot of locations left there,” Day said.

She agreed with Miller that a satellite home needs to be found, but a more concrete plan from the users is needed, she said, to give council a better idea of which sites might work and which are unsuitable.

Mayor Carol Hamilton suggested the Coalition hold meetings in the near future in order to engage users in the area.

For now, it appears that patience will be required from the skateboarding community.

But for West Shore youth simply looking for a convenient place to hone their craft, that can be a struggle.

“When you’re describing this patience game to kids that are between (the ages) of six and 26, it’s a tough sell,” Miller said. “People aren’t really stoked on the waiting game.”

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

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