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Latest Nelson outdoor skatepark proposal goes public
Nelson residents had an opportunity to gather information and discuss the proposed new location for the outdoor skatepark on Thursday night.
The city hosted the open house in the gym at Rosemont Elementary as one of the first steps in deciding whether the location in Art Gibbon Park is going to be the final resting spot for the facility that has been waiting to be built for more than a decade.
“I came to show support for the effort and help convince people that it’s important,” said Jack McKay, a 15-year-old skateboarder who came to the Thursday night open house with several friends.
City staff, board members from the Kootenay Outdoor Skatepark Society (KLOPS) and park builder New Line Skateparks were on hand to answer questions and hear concerns.
McKay said he liked what he saw presented.
“I made a few suggestions, but other than that it looks pretty good,” said the young Rosemont resident.
The Art Gibbon location was proposed late last year after it was determined that the previous location adjacent to the Nelson and District Community Complex was riddled with costs that would take away from the ability of the society to create a suitable park.
Councillor Deb Kozak was in attendance. The veteran local politician said she was encouraged by what she heard on Thursday night.
“I was really glad we had the meeting and really glad to hear from the people that attended,” she said. “I wanted to hear from the skateboarders and the neighbourhood to see if this is going to work there. I’m happy with the feedback I received.”
As has been the case since locations were first suggested a decade ago, the thought of a bustling skatepark does provide pause for some.
“I think it’s something this community needs and it’s an ideal time to see a beautification project that is really going to bring the community together,” said Chris Ingles, board chair of Nelson CARES that operates two nearby apartment/condo projects. “But at the same time there are a lot of people who have a very significant vested interest in the area and that includes Copper Mountain and Cedar Grove apartments. There are a lot of residents there and when something like this goes in there, it could have significant impact.”
Ingles said Nelson CARES would like to see further meetings where issues of safety and policing could be discussed in a more complete manner.
“I think a lot of people will go away thinking this is a good idea, but they didn’t really get the chance to say it in an open forum-type session,” he said.
“If this is the right location and the folks that are organizing this initiative have the best interest of the people living in the area, then this is an ideal time for the people that are going to use the facility to demonstrate they are responsible and caring people that just want to have fun. It will provide a recreational facility that the people in the area can use as well, so it could end up being a win-win.”
Ingles stressed that Nelson CARES is not against the proposal.
“Ideally we would like to see a formalized event that clearly demonstrates that all the concerns have been mitigated,” he said. “I’m not suggesting in any shape or form that we are not embracing the idea, we are embracing the idea but it needs to be a cohesive and coordinated effort.”
As for the outlay of the park, New Line said what was presented on Thursday night was far from the final design the Vancouver-based company hopes to build.
“Tonight wasn’t a design that we were trying present, it was more about what the size would look like in the space and the general arrangement,” said New Line owner Kyle Dion.
If the site is approved, Dion said they would go through the design process with the community and the stakeholders.
New Line has stuck with the Nelson project since 2005 and has designed several parks at the different suggested locations. In its 11 years of business, New Line has built almost 200 parks across North America. Dion said the delays with Nelson’s project are on the high end of wait times, but he understands the issues community leaders struggle with.
“It can be tough sometimes, there are a lot of pressures on land and land uses,” he said. “In other places we have built, at one time it was people not understanding skateboarding and not wanting the parks. But for the most part this community has said ‘we want the park’ but where do we put it?”
Dion is hoping city council makes this a priority so they can get to work building skateboard enthusiasts a park they hope young and old will flock to.
“We would love to be breaking ground in May and have it completed later in the summer when there is still weather to enjoy it,” he said.
Kozak is hoping to see a full staff report by the February 4 council meeting. If that happens, council may have the option to approve the location.
McKay said his peers are frustrated the process has taken so long, but on Thursday was optimistic that it’s closer to reality.
“Everywhere else has one, we can’t understand why we don’t. It keeps getting changed and put off,” he said. “I would like to stay positive and it seems like it’s the closest it’s ever been.”