MEDICINE HAT, AB – Since opening in 2012, the Kinsmen Skate Park has served as the home for Medicine Hat’s skateboarding community.
But according to Joshua Swanson with the Medicine Hat Skateboard Association, room is becoming scarce.
“We've had the Kinsmen Skate Plaza for a while now and it's getting pretty full with an influx of skateboarding and scootering happening in recent years,” said Swanson. “So, we see a bit of an urgency.”
With more skaters heading downtown and being ticketed for things like skating on private property, the Skateboard Association has proposed an idea to make both side happy.
Presenting to the Urban Environment and Recreation Advisory Board last month, Swanson said they’re looking to create smaller, integrated skate spots for those wanting to hit the city streets.
“We knew that wasn't going away,” he said. “So, we decided to come up with an idea that people can continue to street skateboard, but it would be beneficial and educational for both the skateboarders and the community at large.”
Chair of the UERAB Simon Parker said it was his first time dealing with the Skateboard Association, but he wanted to jump on board with the initiative immediately.
“After the presentation we discussed it as a board and said this is something we really want to get behind and support for the community,” said Parker.
The skate sites would be much smaller than the current Kinsmen Skate Plaza, and would include features that skaters could use as part of the urban landscape.
In the 2017-18 budget, a pilot project was approved by the City to create a skate-able art piece in collaboration with the parks department this summer.
But now, Swanson is wanting to expand the initiative to more locations like the Saamis Teepee, Central Park, Saamis Rotary Park, Strathcona Island Park, and outside the Family Leisure Centre to make skating more accessible.
“The skateboard park, especially when it's full, can be extremely intimidating especially for young skateboarders when there's a lot of older, experienced skateboarders,” said Swanson.
On Monday, Swanson and Parker made a pitch to the City to consider additional funding for more of these skate spots over the next four years.
Swanson proposed one to two projects per year across the City, which would cost between $20,000 and $60,000 per location.
However, Swanson said the Skateboard Association is offering to cover half of the costs involved.
“The Skateboard Association has never tried to just lean and rely fully on the City, but also not try to separate itself from the City,” he said. “We want people to know that we're completely integrated.”
Parker said these skate spots would help promote Medicine Hat as an active community and decrease future problems between skaters and the public.
“What they're doing is right in our remit for a healthy and active community getting youth involved in activities that they want to do, but also removing that conflict,” he said.
Swanson added the ultimate goal is to introduce skateboarding to the public and decrease the stigma surrounding the sport.
“Instead of having pre-conceived judgements around skateboarding, they'll be able to view for themselves what it's really about,” he said.
An announcement regarding the location of the first pilot project is expected in the coming weeks.
Information from Monday’s public services meeting will be relayed to City Council, who will have the final say in terms of further funding.
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