The Wellesley village skate park is getting a new lifeline after the intervention of a group of youth and community members at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Hearing that their beloved park was facing closure after failing to pass a safety inspection on multiple counts, the group urged councillors to find another way.
The support received a sympathetic hearing from Wellesley councillors, who decided to hold off on a final decision on the park until alternative could be looked at.
“You know, we deal with a lot of issues and not even of the fraction of the people come out,” said Coun. Herb Neher. “So obviously this tells me that this is an important park for the community. And I think we should be very careful before we make these decisions. Going forward, maybe the best thing to do is look at different options and working with these groups.”
The decision won a round of applause from the crowd, as spectators waited with bated breath for the verdict. The skate park lived to fight another day, though it will still remain closed until the safety issues can be addressed.
A safety inspection of the park, which is made up of the half pipe and quarter pipe ramps located in the Wellesley arena parking lot, found several issues with both structures, which had been built and funded with a combination of volunteer and township efforts.
The half pipe needed railings installed, splintered panels replaced, new ladders and other maintenance work, said the report from Jeff Elliot Playground Inspections, which was hired to inspect the township’s playgrounds and recreation equipment. The quarter pipe ramp was also in need of new safety and maintenance work.
Those were issues the park supporters said they were willing to help deal with, including by raising money to support the work.
The half pipe ramp was also facing “extensive damage” after being struck by a township snowplow last winter, and has been closed since then. One member of the audience suggested the onus of repairing the plow damage was on the township, drawing agreement from Coun. Carl Smit.
But the location of the half pipe was also considered to be a problem, and a new home needed to be found for it, the report said. The ramp was set too close to the outside brick wall of the Wellesley arena, opening up the township to potential liabilities if someone fell into the wall. The structure was also too close to a nearby gas meter which, again, would put the responsibility on the township if someone got hurt.
“So we’re dealing with liabilities,” said Neher. “Once you are made aware that there is a potential problem there and we don’t fix it and we ignore it, the liabilities are pretty bad for the township.”
“Unfortunately when inspections are done, sometimes the results aren’t what you hope for,” noted township recreation director Danny Roth, who suggested a new home could be found for the ramp at the new parkland being developed by the township on Queens Bush Road and Hutchinson Road.
However, the group were concerned that it could be years before the parkland was ready for use, a point councillors agreed was likely the case.
“How many years is it going to be before we have this parkland up and running? I don’t want these kids to not have a skateboard park for five years. We don’t know if it’s ever going to go further, the regionalization and stuff like that,” he added, alluding to concerns that the provincial government was considering amalgamating the region’s municipalities into a single government.
“I know a lot of people have been really missing it this year. A lot of people have been contacting me saying, ‘hey, do you know what’s going on with the ramp,’” said Ian McRuer, who came to speak to councillors as a delegate. McRuer has been the primary figure involved with building, maintaining and now advocating for, the skate park structures.
McRuer said he’d taken put in a lot of work over the years and some personal expense to keeping the park in shape. Three years ago, McRuer noted about $8,000 to $10,000 had been invested into the structure for additional upgrades, with the idea that it would continue to be used by the people of Wellesley for years to come.
“I just think it’s a shame if we’re going to put all that money in, it’s only been a few years only just to have it removed, and I really don’t want to see that happen,” said McRuer. “And yeah, I think it’s been the most popular feature of all the skate park stuff. Like all the stuff we have there, it’s been the thing that gets used to most. People come from all over the place to ride it. I know there’s a lot of people here tonight who are here because they care about it, and they want to show support for it staying.”
The skate park got its reprieve, but the more work is needed to be done. The next steps will see the township working with McRuer and the skate park supporters to find a new home for ramps, as well as come up with estimates on the costs for the repairs.