Members of Skateboard Fredericton are happy to hear plans for a downtown skatepark are being mapped out after years of “bandaid solutions.”
Hopes for a new park next to Officer’s Square in downtown Fredericton’s Garrison district have set in motion a new round of planning, dollars and donors for the local group after recent meetings with city councillors.
Marc Landry has been with the Skateboard Fredericton Association for several years and said when it comes to skateparks, one of the biggest challenges is getting people interested for the long haul – and that all begins with finding a space for the park.
“Ideally once you have a space you can really sell the vision and focus on money after,” said Landry, who lives in Fredericton. “Basically what we’re looking for is a space and people to share our vision for a long-term commitment.”
Landry said it’s hard to get investors interested because there is no financial return on the skatepark. Other than intangible, social community benefits, the group still technically needs to ‘sell’ the idea of a skateboard park to city councillors and the like.
“You need commitment. You really need to sell the idea and how it is a benefit to everyone, how it’s an attraction for people out of town – especially skateboarders,” he said.
Along with the association, Landry has been working with city councillors to help shape the process of action when it comes to presenting the idea of the skatepark.
The City of Fredericton puts out a Recreation Master Plan every decade or so – a document with organized plans for resources, funds and logistics of recreational matters in the city. A skateboard park was outlined in this plan back in 2008 – until other projects took priority and the skatepark plan was scrapped. Landry said this could be related to the city’s attitude towards skateboarding in general – what skateparks Fredericton does have are often piecemeal solutions to the city’s need for a durable, high-quality park.
“They don’t realize what an actual parks look like – it’s really like having a baseball field with only two bases.”
Repairs to a skatepark on Kimble Dr. in Fredericton are due this summer, but Landry said it’s not enough because these facilities are the bare minimum when it comes to potential. It’s why Skateboard Fredericton is pushing for a new, fully operational park – a project Landry said would have no maintenance and could last up to 40 years on its own.
“It’s missing out on a whole demographic of people. We are citizens like anyone else and our recreational needs aren’t being met,” said Landry.
Justin Martin has been skateboarding for 15 years and is heavily involved with Skateboard Fredericton, ever since it started a few years ago. The 25-year-old Fredericton native said the benefits of a skatepark in the heart of the city’s downtown benefit more than skateboarders – it’s a potential economic plus.
“It’s going to bring life back into our city – it’s going to bring people from all over the province,” said Martin. “Mom’s dropping little Timmy off at the skatepark – she’s going to be shopping and spending downtown.”
Martin grew up teaching skateboarding summer camps as a teen on the city’s North side. Since then he’s worked hard fundraising and networking for the association.
The avid skateboarder said there’s still a stigma surrounding skateboarding culture and admits it could be why it’s taken so long to get a skatepark project up and running in Fredericton.
“I think being in a mostly conservative town [like Fredericton] there’s still the ‘punk kid looking for trouble’ stigma. I think that’s been one of our bigger obstacles so far,” he said. “We want to try to kill that stigma and get people involved.”
Landry said the new skateboard facility could cost $600,000 once layout, design and construction are considered. He said the price seems steep but compares this number to the amount spent on hockey arenas in Fredericton.
“This is really a fraction of the cost. Not everyone gets involved in team sports and not everyone can afford organized sports,” he said. “People say ‘well I wouldn’t use a skate park – what’s in it for me’ and I say it goes both ways.”
For Martin, the skatepark should be considered a priority just like any other city project. He too compares it to other organized sports that often get the limelight over skateboarding.
“It’s helping kids be better at a sport they love – that’s getting them outside and active. It’s better for the community long term,” he said.
Landry and Martin have seen cultural changes seen over the years when it comes to skateboarding and are enthusiastic and optimistic about the project’s progress.
“The city’s finally starting to wake up,” said Martin. “We aren’t just this little subculture to be pushed to the side – we are something to be reckoned with.”