LETHBRIDGE: No money, no timeline, no wheels as yet for a new skate park in Lethbridge.
As close to 60 skateboarders - most of them youth - looked on from the audience at city hall, staff revealed a tentative master plan to build three skate parks between 2014 and 2023. Council pushed the possible construction date for one park ahead a couple years, but didn't guarantee funding or a timeline. Wade Galloway, who speaks for the Lethbridge Skateboard Park Association, called the move "déjà vu, all over again."
"To try and say that shovels will be in the ground anytime soon is, to be charitable, disingenuous," Galloway told reporters after he spent the last half of the meeting slowly shaking his head.
Galloway says it will be an uphill battle to get things done with the "soft" level of support council gave at this stage. They encouraged his group to apply for a special city grant which funds community projects through cost sharing - the group must cover 2/3 of the cost. That leaves the skateboarding community, who are comprised mainly of youth, to raise $180,000 in a few short months. And with no research on possible locations, no timeline, and no guarantee of support from council, Galloway says it will be difficult to get investors interested in the project.
"There could be kids out there skating on a park right now. But it's the failures of administration. And we see more failures - they were given a simple directive and weren't held to task by council," says Galloway. "Three simple things: and we do not have a timeline to go forward."
During their presentation on the master plan, administration revealed the park proposal could have been in the city's current community plan, but "staffing issues" led them to lose the project in the shuffle. Their mistake meant the project failed to make it onto the list of suggested projects for this term, meaning the next opportunity to formalize the plans won't come until 2014 at the earliest.
Council had also directed staff to come up with possible locations for the parks - which they left out of their presentation. Ald. Bridget Mearns was the only council member to try and challenge them for not following instructions. "Back when this was brought to administration on April 16, one of the specific things I asked for was possible locations. So why isn't that being provided?" she asked. They said they didn't want to look at sites until they knew what the need was (a hired consultant has clearly identified an "immediate need" of 39,000 square feet of skate park space), and added they now have a few location spots in mind. "So when do you think you'll share those?" Their answer: "in the next step."
Regardless of mistakes that may or may not have been made along the way during the decade since the community first asked for a new skate park, the alderman who suggested council refer the smallest proposed park (which, at roughly 9,000 square feet, covers about 23 per cent of the identified need for park space) to apply for a grant by the end of the month sees the move as a positive step.
"It's an attempt to move this project forward. The need exists, and not have to have that need put off, or have to wait another three years for the next capital improvement plan," said Ald. Faron Ellis.
Council also voted to ask administration to come back with suggestions on how to improve the safety of the current North Side skate park, which is often described as "unsafe." Ryan Spate, a 19-year-old skateboarder who came to city hall to watch the proceedings Monday, says he's often "afraid" to skate there "because of the way it's set up and the type of cement they have."
"It's beat up, there's cracks, it can be very dangerous. It's very dangerous for younger kids as well."
Suggestions on how to improve the North Side pa