Residents ramp up opposition to Vancouver skateboard park

Skateboard park ranked last on public amenities survey

Residents neighbouring Mount Pleasant Park are accusing the park board of deceiving the community regarding the skateboard park near completion there.

"The park board chose to spend the time and money for a public consultation to pretend to be interested in the opinion of the community," said Doug Leung, who's lived across from the park since 2005. "We're very disappointed in this use of the park."

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The public consultation, part of the ongoing redevelopment of the park, included a survey asking residents to rank a list of amenities they wanted in the park. Leung noted the survey results ranked a skateboard park last on a list of 15 items, but there was no option to decline the idea altogether. He said one of the amenities most wanted by residents was a splash park to ease the disappointment of the loss of the popular outdoor pool, which was demolished last year.

"But now the park has become a destination for skaters from across the city," Leung said.

The splash pool is not part of the redevelopment.

The Courier heard from several residents who live near the park concerned about the skate park, but only Leung would speak on the record. Other residents say they're afraid of retaliation from the men who started using the skate park which is still under construction. The park board recently piled sand on the skateboard ramp to stop skaters from entering the fenced area.

Residents told the Courier the skaters are noisy, leave garbage and let their dogs, including what the residents say is an aggressive pit bull, run off leash. Graffiti is also a problem at the park. One young mother told the Courier she was offended by graffiti including the word "Boobs," which was stylized to look like a woman's breasts.

Leung said the park board initially placated residents with the promise the skate park would be small and dedicated to beginners. The park board refers to the area as a "skate spot," rather than a skate park. But Leung said the original design was revised in September, with no notice to residents, to make the skate park more challenging.

"They told no one," said Leung. "What you have now is elevations four and five feet high that young kids can't go down. That's why these guys in their 30s and 40s are using it and that's disturbing because the skate park is right beside the toddler area."

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Blyth, who helped found the Vancouver Skateboard Coalition, is confident the skate park will become a popular amenity for Mount Pleasant.

"Wherever we've put in a skate park there's been concern from residents, like at Kensington Park," said Blyth. "But in the end, those same community members are coming out to watch the skaters."

Blyth said when she was elected three years ago, she promised to encourage more youth to get involved in park board business. She believes skate parks engage youth in politics.

Blyth argued that the use of the park by skaters before its completion highlights the need for more skate parks in the city. She said residents worried about the skate park can contact her about their concerns.

Twitter: @sthomas10

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