Chet Greason, Gazette staff
Stratford City Council has nixed the idea of relocating the skatepark to Shakespeare Park, deciding instead to keep it where it is behind the YMCA on Downie while exploring the option of expanding it into the Cooper's site.
The discussion opened with a delegation from area resident Amber Verhoeve, who listed a number of skateparks in other cities that ran into trouble due to their close proximity to homes. She felt the current design, being 200 ft from the nearest residence, was not enough to protect residents from excessive noise.
"The noise factor alone… will affect our lives on a daily basis," she said.
Brad Hernden from Stratford's Community Services department clarified some aspects of the site's suggested design. A satellite image, which marked out a 5,000 sq. ft area south-west of Shakespeare Park's tennis courts, was not the intended full size. Instead, the park would've likely been around 2,500 - 3,000 sq. ft, with the potential to expand at a later date.
In terms of noise pollution, Hernden said that studies have shown concrete skateparks deliver "no more noise then a basketball court or playground."
He also noted that, since initially sending out letters of advisement to neighboring houses, his department has received numerous letters of support, as well as opposition.
Three motions in total were brought before Council. The first, suggested by Councillor Karen Smythe, would've had the skatepark built near the ball diamonds on Norfolk Street, where skateboarders could use the ball diamond's facilities and a fence could be built around the park, locking it at night.
Councillor George Brown strongly disagreed with this idea, saying a centralized location was more desirable. He said Smythe's plan was akin to saying to young people "'We don't want to see you.'"
The motion was defeated 7-4.
Brown then put forward the motion to accept the staff recommendation to relocate the skatepark to Shakespeare Park. Councillor Paul Nickel was one of the most vocal against this plan.
"If I may get my nickel's worth in," he joked. "Would I want it in my neighborhood? No. We're putting it in someone else's neighborhood. I think if it were going in some other councillors' neighborhood, they'd vote differently."
Brown's motion was defeated 6-5.
Finally, Councillor Martin Ritsma put forth a motion to keep the skatepark where it is, with Councillor Kerry McManus suggesting that there be an option for expansion and redesign once the future of the Cooper's site has been determined.
"I'm still not convinced there won't be room at the Cooper's site," said McManus, adding a Cooper's Site skatepark would meet the recreational needs of the area, address the concerns of Shakespeare Park residents, and keep young people in the core.
Stratford CAO Ron Shaw clarified that, should it be approved on principal, that any future Cooper's site deign would incorporate the skatepark.
This motion passed 8-3.