If the response from the 40-plus people who showed up to a Thursday open house for the outdoor skatepark is any indication, Nelson is close to the climax of a journey that has taken more than a decade.
When New Line Skateparks president Kyle Dion wrapped up his presentation at Rosemont Elementary School there was enthusiastic applause. The final design and overall plan was a hit, which means if everything goes according to plan the shovel could be in the ground at Art Gibbon Park by next month.
“I’m really excited and really optimistic about it happening,” 16-year-old skateboarder Josh Sullivan told the Star after the formal presentation. “The design looks amazing and I have great faith in his [Dion] engineers and that it’s going to turn out well.”
Nelson city council signed off on the site in Rosemont in February, which paved the way for the final design brought forward Thursday.
New Line has been working with the Kootenay Outdoor Skatepark Society (KLOPS) since 2005 and over that time has gathered plenty of input about what skateboarders and other users want to see incorporated in the outdoor facility. Dion explained Thursday night that the Vancouver-based company, that has built more than 200 parks worldwide, used that input to come up with the current plan.
The 15,000 square foot park in Art Gibbon would incorporate three main features: plaza, ditch run and bowl. It would also have terrain suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced. It is being called an “all-wheel park” which means bikes and other wheeled activities would be welcome.
The $600,000 park would be the biggest in the West Kootenay.
“We are going to be five steps ahead of the game here, our park is way better than anything else in the whole area,” said Sullivan, who regularly travels to other communities to skateboard. “It will be busy, not just with locals, but the surrounding Kootenay traffic as well. I have friends in Castlegar and they are really eager to see this skatepark go through.”
Sullivan is a Grade 11 student at L.V. Rogers. Last semester he wrote a research essay for his English 11 class about the outdoor skatepark saga that has been in the news since 2002. Since moving to Nelson seven years ago, the former Ontario resident said he had been frustrated by the wait, but after researching the topic he has a better understanding.
“It was frustrating, but I don’t think a lot of people understand what was actually going on. To get the right location takes time,” he said about the various site locations and squabbles over the years.
“The design itself is great. It definitely caters to the youth here. We have definitely had a lot of say about what they are putting in the park and I think that is great because it’s exactly what we want. It’s a great park, I will be really happy to see it here this summer.”
The City of Nelson hosted the open house and it was also intended to gather concerns from the neighbourhood. Though a couple questions were raised about hours of operation and drainage, there was little opposition put forth at the meeting.
Dion explained that land provided by the city comes with drainage challenges. The site was the result of infill from nearby housing developments and there are water issues. New Line has put a lot of thought into mitigating the water issues with a series of drainage ditches and catch basins.
As for the hours of operation, Dion explained that there would be no lights at the park so it would be a dawn to dusk facility. The design also incorporates the CPTED principles of skatepark design. CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and the Rosemont park takes into account issues of police monitoring and safety for those who use the park.
“I’m immensely excited, it feels more real than ever,” said KLOPS board member Shane Johnsen, who has been with the project for 11 years. “You look around the room and the right people seem to involved right now.”
KLOPS has been raising funds for many years and last year received a major provincial grant that put it over the top. Still, Johnsen said before the shovel goes into the ground they will still need financial support.
“Now it comes down to the community,” said Johnsen, a skateboarder and owner of Tribute on Baker Street. “We will be doing our call-outs and looking for that in-kind that has been spoken about for years, we know there are folks out there that want to help make that happen. Those little bits that we need to make up now, that’s where it needs to come from.”
The in-kind would be for the excavation and cement work required to build the park.
Johnsen said the process to this point has been a struggle, but what is now possible makes the wait worth it.
“This is pretty much the best outcome we could have had, it really is,” he said. “I love the location. You look at that setting… when we bring photographers in and the top-end pros come to town, that’s a very cool setting. It’s truly Nelson, with the backdrop of the mountains and nestled beside a forest.”