Cheers and applause broke out in the public gallery of Nelson council chambers after a unanimous decision by council to approve construction of an outdoor skatepark at Art Gibbon Memorial Park in Rosemont.
The decision came down at a regular council meeting Monday evening, after about 15 minutes of debate.
Councillors had reviewed feedback collected from a public open house and wanted to make sure public concerns would be addressed — particularly around parking, noise and supervision.
Chief financial officer Colin McClure said the City would cover the cost of building a parking lot and emergency access roads into the park, which are expected to cost around $60,000, and noise mitigation will be incorporated into the site design. An ambassador program will be developed through summer work programs, funded by grants, to have someone at the park to mentor younger skaters and alert the police of any concerns. Police have also indicated they will change their patrol routes to pass by the park more frequently.
Of course that doesn’t mean there will never be an issue in the park.
“You can’t really outlaw stupidity,” McClure said, noting every park is vulnerable to vandalism or other illicit activities. “We can’t make any promises, as far as what immature people’s behaviours might produce.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo suggested that criminal activities are often associated with skateparks in other communities, but Mayor John Dooley said he thinks Nelson youth are different.
“I’m confident in the young people who will use this park. I don’t think it will need any more policing than any other park in our community,” he said.
He also pointed out that the City had earmarked funds to put a parking lot at Art Gibbon Park long before the skatepark was proposed there, and that it’s a small expense compared to the $600,000 Kootenay Lake Skate Park Society has lined up to build the skatepark.
“A lot of work has been done, over a number of years, to get to this point. We need to trust the skatepark society is going to make sure this will be a good, safe park that will be enjoyed by young people in our community,” Dooley said.
Skatepark society spokesman Chad Hansen was among the cheering crowd in the gallery. He said he was relieved to have the location approved, though his excitement was tempered by the fact the society has been in this position before.
“I hate to say we’re in the clear [to have the park built],” Hansen said. “We’re always cautiously optimistic, but we should be good from here. I don’t think there will be any major issues that would prevent us from building there.”
With the site approved, the company designing the skatepark, New Line Skateparks, can make a detailed site plan, which will be shared with the public at another open house before construction starts this spring.
“We could be dropping into bowls at a brand new skatepark in Rosemont by this summer,” Hansen said.