OTTAWA NEEDS BETTER SKATEPARKS

words / EMILY D’ORAZIO pictures / KEEGAN HUGHES

In the last the three years Ottawa has seen four new skate parks go up, but it still needs more. Ottawa needs more parks that are built by skaters and for skaters, because if anything, that is what we’re lacking. Owner of Birling Ottawa (formerly Antique Skate), Aaron Cayer and his team understand this need to the fullest and they are ready to make sure Brewer gets a new skate park.

Brewer Park has been marked for some time now to undergo a massive revitalization project. The last time the city even thought about changing the park was in 1982, nearly forty years ago. The project is set to break ground sometime within the next 5 to fifteen years, but Cayer wants to do what he can to ensure that in one way or another skateboarding is incorporated.

Cayer explained that he thinks having a skate park or some form of skateboarding facility would be an amazing addition for the community. “What we love about skate parks is that it is more accessible to a wider range…where as a lot other recreation type facilities it is catered to a certain age or sex or skill level where this is somewhere where you can go your own pace and have fun.”

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Flatground tricks in Ajax, ON

At a city held gathering this month, residents of the Capital Ward got to come out and express their views and opinions on what the layout for the future Brewer Park should look like; this is where Cayer and his skateboard-supporting army step in.

Meg Issacs, the Co-Director for the Ottawa Skateboard Community Association, says “I think it would mean a lot to the community especially to those who remember the [skate] park that existed there before, the city doesn’t really understand the importance of it for this entire community”

City Councillor David Chernushenko, is responsible for the Capital Ward in which the park is situated. He seems quite focused on the communities push for a new refrigerated speed-skating oval. Don’t get me wrong a speed skating oval is cool, but it is not a skate park.

He expressed that he could get behind the idea of putting a new skate park or skateboarding facility up at Brewer Park but quickly receded to the idea that a skate park would incite some kind of danger or violence.

“It is feasible that is something that could happen … It does create security issues so that is a concern that we need to be aware of.” Said Chenrushenko.  

The city has seemingly always had a bit of torrid relationship with skaters, especially at Brewer Park. In 1987 Ottawa provided land in order for The Rampage Skateboard Group to construct two wooden ramps within the park. The following year the city provided them with $2,500 in order for the group to provide lessons, supervision and maintenance of their space in the park.

Despite initial support, the ramps were set ablaze two different times that year. The city cleaned it up and cleared it out by November of 1989. Prompting the then Commissioner of Recreation and Culture, Don Gamble to explain “As far as I am concerned, skateboarding will not be a priority the (recreation) department will spend money on.”

The problem with the sentiment brought forth by the late Commissioner Gamble is that now the city almost has no choice but to start making money for more parks a priority. The existing skate parks the city has are almost entirely over run with skaters at all times of the day.

Some skaters have also deemed many facilities previously built by the city as “un-skateable”. They claim the city needs to do more consulting with skaters before building facilities they really do not know too much about.

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A skateboarder attempts to clear the steps in Ajax, ON

“The amount of people these parks are being used by is insane. Charlie (Bowins) Park, Legacy, Kanata and Barrhaven, it is crazy. You never see kids on soccer fields unless they have to be there for games or something, people who use skate parks use them not just to skate but to create community and that is really important,” says skate park advocate Nolan Saumure.

It is clear the community is screaming for new skate park, whether the city listens or not will be another story. With all of the back and forth skaters have faced from the city of Ottawa over the decades it will be interesting to see whether or not 5 years from now if we will have a speed skating oval or a skate park. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

thedtsblog

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