Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
City council isn’t ready to commit to a location for a new skatepark in Stratford just yet.
But at Monday’s council meeting, while sitting as the community services committee, a decision was made to further investigate Shakespeare Park as the potential site for a new $120,000 facility, despite ongoing concerns from neighbourhood residents.
Specifically, council passed a motion to space out with stakes the exact location and size so that nearby residents can get a better sense of how the development would fit within the existing parkland, which also houses tennis courts, a playground, and horseshoe pit.
The city will have to first consult with a skatepark developer and determine a size that fits within its budget. It’s hoped the issue will be brought back to council for its first meeting in October, thought city staff suggested it could take a few weeks longer.
In a presentation to council, recreation manager Brad Hernden reiterated Shakespeare Park was the top choice in staff’s site selection investigation.
It has the greatest number of potential users within its service area and is visible from the street, leading to greater transparency and improved public safety.
Hernden also addressed the two main concerns he’s heard: noise and declining property values.
He said there is no documentation that speaks to property values being affected positively or negatively due to being close to a skatepark, and noted the skatepark would be built using concrete, which results in less noise than the current asphalt surface.
“As staff we feel we have exhausted all of our resources to bring you a report and recommendation that makes sense for Stratford, not just in the short term, but the long term,” he added.
Hernden said rebuilding the skatepark in its current location next to the YMCA – as recommended by the city’s community services subcommittee – wouldn’t make sense due to the number of competing interests for the land, leaving future expansion of the skatepark uncertain.
Everything from an expanded YMCA, new library, police station, and transit hub have been talked about as possible future uses for the land.
“If the priority is going to be the skatepark, then one of those other things might end up falling off that list,” commented CAO Ron Shaw.
Keeping the park in its present location, however, was exactly what Jim LeSouder, whose mother lives near Shakespeare Park, would like to see happen.
“Our skaters need a spot where they can express themselves. A residential area is not one,” he said, suggesting the current park has washrooms at the YMCA and could be beautified and redeveloped with multiple access points to meet the needs of skaters.
LeSouder said despite the good intentions of most skateboarders, noise and litter would be a problem at the park.
Shakespeare Park is busy and used regularly by the YMCA, and any further development would saturate the land and diminish green space, he added.
Brad Horton, who lives on Nile Street, said he has visited various cities and found most skateparks are located near sports complexes and other recreational facilities.
He said he has also talked with some skateboarder in other cities who have told him “you’re asking for trouble” building a skatepark in a residential area.
He said Shakespeare Park does not have enough space to properly accommodate a skatepark.
“What you’re basically trying to do here is put a round hole in a square peg. You won’t have room for if they wan to expand down the road.”
Other locations considered by city staff for a skatepark included Anne Hathaway Park, SERC, the fairgrounds, Lower Queen’s Park, and National Stadium.
Horton, who presented a petition with 53 signatures from people who oppose Shakespeare Park, said wherever the park is located skateboarders will find a way to get there, much like when he was a kid he would walk to the city’s only ice rink.
At least two councillors, Karen Smythe and Paul Nickel, indicated they would not vote in favour of the Shakespeare Park proposal.
Smythe said while skateboarding can be great entertainment, she believes the city should preserve its green space. She suggested the SERC site would be preferable.
“As far as I’m concerned, if you put it out of the centre (of the city) a little bit that’s not a problem. They will still come and skateboard if they wan to skateboard.”
Nickel also questioned why skateboarders want the park in a central location versus near a recreational facility in a none-residential area.
Seventeen-year-old skateboarder Andrew Mcardle said Shakespeare Park is believed to be the best overall option, noting its provides both accessibility and visibility.
Addressing concerns he’s heard, he said all skateboarders want is to skate and practice their tricks, go home, and do it again the next day.
“We don’t want to sit around and vandalize and make disruptive noises,” he added.
If Shakespeare Park is chosen, Mcardle noted local skateboarders plan to fundraise for other needs at the park in the future.