There is currently a sense of urgency surrounding the selection of a new site for Whitehorse’s skateboard park. I appreciate that this decision needs to made quickly, but it is of critical importance that it not be made lightly.
There are some options being considered that seem perfectly viable, but must be dismissed by officials due to one factor: lack of visibility. If a skate park is not placed in a high-visibility location, it will attract the kinds of destructive activities that are far too often associated with (and, more often than not, have nothing to do with) skate culture.
Downtown is where the park belongs. The user groups that access the very affordable sports of skateboarding, BMXing, and scootering are often overlapped with a group of young people who would fall under the labels of “at-risk,” “disadvantaged” and “marginalized.”
This group of children and youth are drawn to the downtown area as that’s “where the action is,” and, in the absence of a skate park downtown, will likely seek out and find other, less productive ways to generate excitement and get the adrenaline pumping.
These are kids on the edge – to remove them from the public’s field of view will effectively permit the exact behaviours and associations that they are “at-risk” for. Conversely, to embed them as a central part of the downtown’s cultural landscape will permit them to show their genuine colours of being a healthy, diverse family of driven young athletes enriching our city with their passions and abilities.
There will be opposition. There will be those who will claim a skate park would be an eyesore. This is not really surprising, considering the state of disrepair the city has allowed the site where the current park (which was never completed) to fall into.
A skate park does not need to look like this. Picture beautifully curving lines of smooth concrete covered with spray-painted works of art, integrated public art sculptures (that happen to be ride-able), landscaped lawns surrounding the bowls and ledges.
And the most beautiful feature of all: happy children, and their mentors having fun and growing together.