Council approves Centennial Park site plan over RCMP objections

The site plan for a skateboard and bike park in Centennial Park was approved by city council despite objections by RCMP Staff Sgt. Jacquie Olsen that the park is "the wrong place" for the facilities.

The site plan for a skateboard and bike park in Centennial Park was approved by city council despite objections by RCMP Staff Sgt. Jacquie Olsen that the park is “the wrong place” for the facilities.

At the Aug. 23 meeting of council, Olsen said placing the skateboard park in Centennial Park was wrong because there wouldn’t be many people around to monitor the skateboarders. She expressed preference for a location that was closer to residences.

“Crime prevention through environmental design principles indicate that,” Olsen said. “It needs to be in the public eye.”

Karl Jost of the Columbia Valley Skateboarding Association, which is leading the push for the skatepark, called Olsen’s view “prejudice” and “ignorant” and that skateboarders were no more prone to crime than anyone else.

“To me that’s completely wrong and opposite to what’s really going on,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Having it in Centennial is perfect because it is an actual park area. There’s a lot of traffic and it’s easy for the police to monitor with a quick little drive-by.”

At council, Kerry Dawson, the director of parks and recreation, said ongoing development plans for Centennial Park meant there would likely be more park users by the time the skatepark is built several years from now.

“I think when the park is fully developed we will have other user groups in that particular place,” Dawson said, adding: “We still will have potentially some issues in terms of safety and security.”

“That location is not the correct location for a skateboard park,” Olsen reiterated to Dawson’s statement.

In a follow-up interview with Olsen asking her to elaborate on her comments, she said having the skateboard park in a busier location would “lessen the chances for ongoing behavioural problems that will naturally emanate from the type of culture that is there.”

“The most successful and trouble-free skate parks are located near other activities that provide surveillance and reassurance to everybody,” she said.

At the same time, when asked, she said the RCMP did not have issues with regards to vandalism or crime at the current skateboard park in Kovach Park. She said the RCMP did get some complaints about noise or drinking, “but we are not overwhelmed with them.”

Still, she insisted that having the skatepark in Centennial Park would cause problems. “You’ll find that the most successful skateboard parks are ones that are in highly visible, successful locations.”

Olsen’s concerns were the most significant ones raised at council. Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt said she consulted with members of the Shuswap Columbia Labour Council, CP Rail representatives and artists behind the interpretative history panels in the park.

They expressed concern about locating the park next to the Revelstoke Workers’ Memorial Arch but Halberstadt said co-locating the facilities in the same area could work if it was done tastefully. She said the representatives had “no problem with it as long as there is a buffer,” and that it “needs to artistically fit.”

The discussion focused almost exclusively on the skateboard park and the bike park component of the site plan was mostly ignored.

In the end, council unanimously approved the location, but not after Mayor David Raven said the location could be tweaked later. “We do have time to reconsider down the road,” he said.

Jost said the decision would now allow the skateboard association to pursue funding grants – something it couldn’t do because it didn’t have a location locked down. So far the association has raised about $5,000 through its own fundraising initiatives.

With files from Aaron Orlando/Times Review