Like a mid-trick Ollie, the future of the Mount Pleasant skatepark hangs in the balance.
The Vancouver Park Board decided Monday night to defer its decision to tear out the 430-square-foot concrete landscape on West 16th Avenue. Instead, the NPA-majority board voted for more public input and a revised report, one that looks more closely at a transparent, noise-dampening wall.
“Perhaps the options up there […] are maybe a little extreme at this point,” said Park Board chairman John Coupar of the NPA.
“There may be other ways to mitigate the noise that we haven’t fully considered before if we’re able to find a way forward, perhaps that solves a problem for everybody and is respectful of the tax dollars we’ve already spent.”
Because of three dozen neighbourhood noise complaints (some potentially from the same residents) and $26,000 worth of extra nighttime surveillance spanning the three years since the park was built, a staff report recommended planting grass in place of the skatepark or simplifying the ramps and rails to appeal to only the newest beginners.
Tearing out the park would cost $40,000 and downgrading it $25,000. The park cost $80,000 to build.
The possibility of a new skatepark at Jonathan Rogers Park — potentially the city’s 10th just nine blocks north — hinges on the future of the West 16th Avenue spot.
Vision Vancouver Commissioner Catherine Evans asked if there is really “such a thing as a beginner skateboard park” since anyone on a skateboard can make the most of a basic curb.
Despite standing room only at the meeting hall on Beach Drive, commissioners did not formally hear from any speakers before deciding to seek more feedback and revised recommendations. The 60-minute debate was punctuated by comments and applause from the crowd.
Evans and Green Party Commissioner Michael Wiebe argued the board should hear from citizens who signed up to speak.
“I did want to hear from people from both sides,” said Wiebe. “You’re asking for consultation — they’re sitting right in front of us.”
The four NPA commissioners voted to send the report back to staff.
“I’m very hesitant to make an irrevocable decision of either removing this park tonight or significantly downgrading it without ensuring we’ve really worked with the community to ensue all options for noise compliance,” said NPA park board vice-chair Sarah Kirby-Yung. “I’d really like to see the Skateboard Coalition be an active partner in looking at some solutions.”
The president of the Vancouver Skateboard Coalition, Jeff Cole, said there are potential “solutions that would make this park work for everyone.”
But he questioned if the adults jumping the fence at night and drawing noise and nuisance complaints are at the park to skateboard. It’s too dark to skate, he said, but skaters are being “skape-goated” as the culprits for spilling into the park after bars close.
“A person that hops the fence and is drunk gets blamed on the skateboard park. That’s a park board issue — that isn’t a skate park issue,” he said, echoing the feedback presented in a 2013 report that found skaters were assumed responsible for graffiti, littering, smoking and urination in the park.
Another earlier staff report established the noise at Mount Pleasant Park does exceed acceptable levels. The city measured the noise from the skatepark 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. Six houses are directly affected by the loudest noise.
When the noise spiked on a Sunday, however, the report found the excess decibels “were reached less than one per cent of the time.”
“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 and proposed a transparent, 1.5- to 2.5-metre wall.