Council came down clearly in favour of the southeast corner of the Emcon lot for a skatepark on Monday, opening the door for the Rossland Skatepark Association (RSA) to embark on a design process and fundraising campaign.
Council voted — with Coun. Laurie Charlton against and Coun. Andy Stradling absent — to give the RSA a two-year guarantee on the corner, enough time to draw plans and raise money.
Council also rescinded their 2009 proposal to use the northwest corner of the Emcon lot, and most councillors also found the alternative of RossGlen park to be inferior for the needs of the community.
They agreed with a report submitted by the city’s recreation and planning departments that considered the community history of the RossGlen bike skills park, and recommended the southeast Emcon corner “as an ideal location with optimal visibility — placing it front-and-center in the community — adjacent to a key local collector street (Washington Street) and across from RSS.”
The report emphasized that the public input process initiated by the RSA found not only that out-of-the-way parks are problematic, but that the prospective users — young people — overwhelmingly preferred the Emcon site.
Opponents of the plan, whose concerns were echoed by Charlton, argue that the skatepark is incompatible with the “mid-town transition area plan” (MTA plan) that the city has long planned for the Emcon lands.
“All this investment will be wasted if we put a skatepark in that area,” Charlton said. “No amount of landscaping will mitigate impacts on future development.”
Later he added, “If we build a skatepark there, it’s an admission that Rossland won’t grow.”
Planning staff argued to the contrary, citing the MTA plan’s self-declared purpose “to support the area’s evolution as a mixed-use neighbourhood.” Staff wrote that a skatepark could easily be designed to compliment other civic and pedestrian uses of the area, and suggested ways to mitigate noise for the neighbourhood. The MTA plan, they wrote, “leaves all
options open for a mix of residential housing, commercial and public space within a large civic plaza.”
Most on council agreed with Coun. Kathy Moore’s assessment: “I see the skatepark as a good first step for regreening the site. Integrated with plaza, it could still be used for other kinds of development. If we do it right — with careful design, berming, landscaping— the concerns [residents] have will be alleviated.”
Coun. Kathy Wallace strongly agreed. The city owns land by a school, she said, it makes sense to put a skatepark there and build the area’s potential as an intergenerational “community gathering and action spot.”
Coun. Jill Spearn also agreed, noting the concurrent battle for the “sustainability of our education facilities in Rossland,” and the K-12 direction the community has chosen for RSS.
“With that in mind,” she said, “the skatepark makes absolute sense to be on that southeast corner. It may draw families and kids to come to RSS. It can be used for PE classes. Kids can do their grafiti on it in a really cool way that’s not offensive. Right now kids in our town go to Kaslo for a week to go to skateboard camp.”
Addressing the MTA plan, Spearn said, “plans evolve and change. We talked about that right at the very beginning, and it’s happening right before our eyes. Hopefully something comes to fruition, it’s going to be tremendous for our community.”
Coun. Hanne Smith who, along with Moore, attended all the RSA meetings, was less certain of her choice. She balanced the long list of pros and cons for the RossGlen and Emcon sites, but in the end she said, “I think Emcon has advantages for the skaters. I think it will be more expensive to build and I think the noise considerations are more significant, but I think the location is more appropriate.”
She felt noise issues at Emcon “wouldn’t be as much of a problem as some people are worried about,” and thought the MTA plan had left lots of flexibility, including some 50-per-cent open space, to allow for a skatepark in the vision. She also preferred that RossGlen remain a bike park: “The little ones who are just learning need a safe place to learn.”
Mayor Greg Granstrom was pleased with the progress. “ I hope, and am assured, that that design will be an asset to our neighbourhood.” He said there would be more time for public input when the RSA returned with drawings.
“We’re not asking for this for aliens,” he said, “it’s for our children and our grandchildren for crying out loud, and they deserve some respect.”