Revelstoke city council on July 26 unanimously approved Centennial Park as the location for the new bike park and skateboard park facilities. The decision also directed staff to develop a site plan that will determine exactly where the parks will be located within Centennial Park. A staff report appears to flag an area including the Doug May field, which is located across the parking lot from the new washrooms. However, city councillors indicated that final decision would be determined during site planning.
Representatives from the proponent skateboard and bicycling groups were joined by about 10 representatives from Revelstoke Minor Ball, a youth baseball league.
Minor Ball president Lina Sihlis expressed her group’s strong opposition to removing another baseball diamond from the park to make way for the new facilities. “Those ball diamonds are landmarks of friendship and achievements, of teamwork, of determination, of our past ball players all across Canada and the USA,” she said, adding the new facilities should be located somewhere else. Sihlis said the ball diamonds represented a deep tradition and lots of history for the community and that removing one was “unacceptable,” adding newcomers to the community might not appreciate this heritage. She also noted other diamonds had been removed for soccer fields in the past.
“Don’t set your minds to destroy our ball diamonds,” she asked council. Furthermore, Sihlis said the facility would affect the “serenity and tranquility” of the park, including issues with “drugs and alcohol and delinquencies.”
Minor Ball wasn’t aware of the ongoing public consultations about a location for the park until she learned through the media two weeks ago that Centennial Park was a frontrunner, she said.
Columbia Valley Skateboard Association spokesperson Karl Jost spoke briefly, saying the location resulted from ongoing public consultations. He said there was a huge desire and support for the park, including 376 Facebook supporters for the association. He felt Centennial Park was the best park in the city for it, but the location within the park was not as important. “We’re not here to step on anybody’s toes,” he said. “We’re very easy to work with. We would just really love to see this happen down in Centennial Park.”
He said the drug and alcohol accusations were a prejudice skateboarders like himself had always had to deal with, adding it was unfair. “There is no more worry of people drinking at a skatepark than there is of people drinking at a ball diamond,” Jost said.
Brendan MacIntosh spoke very briefly on behalf of proponents of the separate bike track and pump track. He also said the group wasn’t there to step on any toes. “I think it’s a valuable amenity” he said.
Following presentations, city councillors weighed in on the matter.
Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt said if there were new fields being built with the new schools, there would be no loss of baseball diamonds. “I don’t really understand what the opposition is about,” she said.
Coun. Peter Frew said the city had an amenities-sharing agreement with the school district, so the new ball diamonds would be available for city park users. Frew said that times do change. In the past that meant an upswing in soccer participation, and more recently more interest in skateboarding and mountain biking. He also asked Sihlis how many players were registered in minor ball. She said there were 32 this past season. He noted staff would now work to find a suitable location within the park. “Hopefully we can appease the three groups that are here,” Frew said.
City planning director John Guenther said he had spoken to friends of Doug May, after whom the ball diamond in question is named. Guenther said they told him “Doug would be very supportive of this.” He also said he spoke with a Revelstoke Glacier Challenge representative, who was also supportive of the skateboard and bike park plan.
During the meeting, it was still unclear exactly how many new ball diamonds were being built as part of the new schools project. Following the meeting, Revelstoke school district superintendent Anne Cooper did confirm for the Times Review there would be two new playing fields built when the new schools were complete. That includes two new baseball diamonds and backstops, one each at the high school and elementary school. One diamond was removed to facilitate school construction, meaning there will be a net gain of one baseball diamond as a result of the construction of the two new schools.
The next step is site planning, which is scheduled to begin after the Revelstoke Glacier Challenge tournament on the August long weekend, but a staff report doesn’t indicate how long that process will take. Timelines for both projects are as yet open-ended and contingent on the proponents raising funds for the parks. It appears likely that the bike park proponents will be ready to go well before the skatepark is. The former is budgeted for under $10,000 plus in-kind donations of labour and equipment, while the skatepark could cost upwards of $800,000. The skatepark proponents are hoping to raise these funds through grants.
Disclosure: Aaron Orlando is a member of the Columbia Valley Skateboard Association, and has been involved peripherally in organizing for the skateboard park. Due to this conflict, he does not usually write stories relating to the ongoing development of the proposal. However, due to summer vacations, he was the only person available from the editorial department to do so this time.