Skateboarders and their supporters are rallying to prevent the demolition of a Mount Pleasant skate park after well-connected neighbours complained about noise from the popular skate spot, which was built only three years ago for more than $200,000.
The park board will decide Monday if the 430-square-foot park near West 16th and Ontario will be demolished and either replaced with grass at a cost of $40,000 or converted for beginner skaters for $25,000. A third possibility leaves the park use open for discussion.
The board also proposes Jonathan Rogers Park as an alternative location for a new skate park. Located between Manitoba and Columbia, the park is in a light-industrial zone one block north of Broadway.
Skateboard advocate Dak Monk started a petition April 23 at change.org to compel the NPA-dominated park board to preserve the existing skate park. As of 3:15 p.m. Friday, 479 people had signed their name to the online plea.
The petition begins: “Why spend […] tax payers’ money building an environment for kids to spend time living actively and healthy, all while staying out of trouble skateboarding if you're going to turn around three years down the road and tear it down (at the cost of taxpayers)?!”
The petition cites information from the city of Portland on typical skateboarding noise that concluded, “All in all, a skatepark is no more noisy than similar recreation areas like a basketball court or children’s playground.”
However, a civic report concluded the noise at the skate park does exceed acceptable levels. The city measured the noise over the course of one weekend and found it could be louder than the accepted 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.
When the noise spiked on a Sunday, however, the report found these excess decibels “were reached less than one per cent of the time.”
Six houses are directly affected by the loudest noise.
“On the other hand,” the report states, “noise from the skateboard park will be less intrusive than indicated […] on many occasions since traffic noise levels can be well above the background noise level.”
The report also investigated the possibility of a transparent barrier to mitigate the noise from the skate park. One side-effect of a 1.5- to 2.5-metre wall could be the amplification of traffic noise. “But this may be an acceptable trade off to the reduction in skateboard park noise as traffic noise is less intrusive in nature.”
A recommendation from interviews in 2013 found skateboarders felt “scapegoated” for problems such as graffiti, littering, smoking and urination.
Those findings were coupled with the recommendation that skate park users respect and give “a very focused effort — combining education, signage, self-policing and enforcement — […] to limit skatespot use to agreed hours, with frequent spot checking to verify success.”
Before the construction of the skate park, neighbour Doug Leung has been an outspoken critic, often talking on the record when other neighbours opted for anonymity. Leung was the NPA campaign manager during the 2014 mayoral election and is married to former park board commissioner Heather Holden.
In 2012, neighbour Linda Darling told the Courier the skate park was a magnet for adults who dominate the tiny facility to the point where younger skaters can rarely use it. "It depends on the time of day," she said at the time, “but it seems like the only times the little ones can use the park is when their fathers are home to defend their territory. Mount Pleasant Park is no longer a welcoming place for children — or old people for that matter."
The skate park was approved by a Vision-dominated park board. In 2009, the park board made the unpopular decision to rip out the Mount Pleasant outdoor swimming pool.
The park board is comprised of four NPA commissioners, one Vision and two Green Party commissioners.
The rally is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 26 at the Mount Pleasant skate park.