As anyone who has ever put their feet on a skateboard can attest, wheels just don’t travel well on grass. That’s one reason why on February 28, the youth-led group Skate Elmira is holding a public consultation to solicit opinions about a proposed Elmira skate park, which the group hopes to have built by the end of 2014.
At the meeting, the group will introduce the public to four locations where the park could be built, including the one heavily favoured, Bristow Park. Skate Elmira believes the Bristow location is large enough and well-situated to be the most beneficial option for the community.
Skate Elmira was conceived two years ago by 16-year-old Kyle Wilton, who tried to generate interest when he was only in the ninth grade. “I’ve been skateboarding for a long time, and I thought it would be a great idea to have a skate park in Elmira,” said Wilton, who usually travels as far as Guelph.
Wilton pitched a skate park to council, but as he remembered, “When it was just a group of us kids and we were in Grade 9, it was really difficult, because they kinda just looked at you like, ‘What can you do to really get that going?’” But Wilton found an adult ally in Robin Hansford, who handles fundraising for the group, and Dustin Martin and David Paisley, two Elmira residents in their twenties who have become Skate Elmira co-chairs.
“We knew that this was an idea that a lot of the youth in the town had tossed around for years,” said Martin. “And we figured, we’re at an age now when we can push these things through, so we decided to try to give it some legs.”
To have the park built by the end of 2014, Skate Elmira needs to raise $500,000. The group hopes to generate money through private donations, provincial recreation programs, and corporate sponsorships (the name of the park is up for grabs). The fundraising campaign is scheduled to begin in June.
While the skate park is not an official township project, Woolwich council has offered to lend support and resources. “I’ve been a big supporter of Skate Elmira since day one of their journey and I will continue to assist them and advocate on their behalf,” said Mayor Todd Cowan in a statement.
“It is our hope that the township will designate township-owned land so there won’t be a cost associated with that,” said Hansford. “The $500,000 will pay for a contractor to build the park, and then we will gift the park back to the township.”
The proposed park will encompass more than just skateboarding: the space will also double as an outdoor concert arena and a skating rink in the winter.
But what, exactly, are the benefits of putting your child on a wheeled board that your anxious mother might have warned you against? “It gets kids out there,” said Zack Krasovec, who works on Skate Elmira’s promotion. “If they’re not into team sports, they can get out there skateboarding. And with a facility like a skate park, you’ll get more kids outside more often.”
Skate Elmira’s public consultation will take place on February 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Woolwich Memorial Centre.