Skatepark consensus elusive

The Rossland Skatepark Association's (RSA) big May 10 site-selection meeting was attended by 65 people of all ages and stages who were challenged to come to consensus on one of three candidate sites for the future skatepark. But full agreement is elusive.

  • May. 18, 2011 5:00 p.m.

The Rossland Skatepark Association’s (RSA) big May 10 site-selection meeting was attended by 65 people of all ages and stages who were challenged to come to consensus on one of three candidate sites for the future skatepark.

But full agreement is elusive.

The participants were split into six tables, each discussion guided by criteria developed at a previous public meeting in January. Participants had at their fingertips both technical information gathered about each site from the city and the RSA, and a report by meeting facilitator Les Carter summarizing the experiences of 40 other communities with skateparks — almost all positive, according to Carter’s interviews.

In the end, three tables favoured the RossGlen site — the old bike skills park on Thompson Avenue — two tables were split, unable to choose between RossGlen and the Emcon site opposite RSS, and one table favoured the Emcon site.

The meeting was not intended “to impose a decision through a vote,” Carter explained, but to to “come as close to agreement as possible.”

The goal was to thoughtfully apply the information and critera to come to some sort of “collective wisdom.”

“I was really happy about that meeting,” said Aaron Cosbey, one of the RSA’s directors. “We had a broad swathe of people out, new skaters, old skaters, neighbours, interested citizens.

“And Les Carter did such a good job. It could have been a shouting match but the facilitation was excellent and, for the most part, we did come to some sort of decision.”

“The younger people really, really favoured the Emcon site,” Carter said. “Young eyes really lit up,” RSA director Robin Strachan confirmed.

“That’s something we need to take into account,” Cosbey said, “but if you’re counting heads and getting a sense of substantive consensus, it’s leaning towards RossGlen.”

The Emcon site’s obvious advantages include its central location near RSS and downtown, and its good visibility, both features that Carter’s study of 40 B.C. skateparks found to be vital to the success of a park.

“We want the kids to feel part of the community, not shunted off to some undesireable location,” Cosbey said.

Furthermore, a skatepark has the “potential to be the catalyst for redevelopment of the Emcon lot and surrounding area,” Carter said.

On balance, however, the Emcon site’s proximity to neighbouring residents and the need to build “sound buffering landscape features” were a deterrent to most people — Carter’s study found noise is manageable with a sound buffer of 100 metres distance, or distances as short as 30 metres with proper landscaping, such as berms.

The Emcon site also has potential drainage problems, the soil may be contaminated, and shallow underground infrastructure would require elevating the park at increased cost.

By contrast, the RossGlen site has good, even ideal topography not only for drainage, but to build an interesting skatepark that’s relatively inexpensive, reasonably accessible and visible, and in attractive surroundings beside an existing multi-use park. The separation from neighbours is reasonable with good natural sound buffering — trees and hills — and the potential to inexpensively design for more.

“I’m personally quite conflicted between the two sites,” said Strachan, who wouldn’t commit to RossGlen quite yet, but he added, “I can really picture a skateboard park in that location, it really jumps out at me.”

Younger participants prioritized the Emcon site’s central location, but although RossGlen is further from schools and amenities, Carter pointed out that “central” in many of the communities with successful skateparks he interviewed often means far greater distances from schools and amenities than those separating RossGlen and RSS.

Other issues with the RossGlen site are that Pinewood residents would have to cross the highway, but Cosbey felt there were “no major concerns.”

“It’s a beautiful spot,” he said, “and closer to Lower Rossland skaters than Emcon. For your money, you’ll get a much better park down at RossGlen. And the neighbours are pretty keen on the idea. The main concern they raised was losing the bike skills park.”

Although it may be necessary, or even desirable, to relocate the existing bike skills park over to Centennial Park, Strachan saw a potential strength in the “cohabitation” of the bike skills and the skateboards.

“It’s a skateboard park, but it’s not just about skateboards. It’s for all sports,” he explained.

“We need to get bikers involved in the design, and it will be a place for the youth to hang out.”

RSA directors went door-to-door before the meeting to let RossGlen neighbours know the site was on the table, but after their positive experience with the bike park, neighbours weren’t worried about a skatepark.

“They’re responsible kids,” Cosbey said.

The process has held lessons for everybody. “This is not how it usually happens,” Carter said, referring to the active engagement of the public in a consensus building exercise, although he added, “it happens more often like this in Rossland than other places.”

“Ideally we’d have come out with a clear focus on one site,” said Strachan, “but that’s why we have council, to make those hard decisions.”

Carter will present his findings to council on May 24, and Cosbey will present the RSA’s independent recommendations at the same meeting.

The full report and meeting package are available at the RSA website (www.skaterossland.com) and will be in council’s May 24 package.