The skateboard park debate seems to have put to rest after Revelstoke City Council voted in favour of Kovach Park as the location for a new facility following a lengthy debate.
Revelstoke council voted 4-3 in favour of Kovach Park, with Mayor David Raven casting a rare deciding vote at the Dec. 10 meeting of council. They were presented with a lengthy staff report, featuring an evaluation of numerous potential sites, dozens of letters from skateboard park supporters and a handful of letters from neighbourhood opposition. The staff report recommended Kovach Park as a location.
The skateboard park location has been an ongoing concern for several years. In 2011, council approved the parking lot next to the Workers’ Memorial in Centennial Park as a location. However, geotechnical issues with the location caused the Columbia Valley Skateboard Association to ask the city to approve Kovach Park as a site.
The CVSA hopes to build a new, 20,000-square-foot skateboard park in Kovach Park.
The debate last week was a divided one that lasted nearly 30 minutes. Raven noted that it featured “the most oratory I’ve ever heard at a council meeting and the most defined positions we’ve had in the term of this council.”
Coun. Gary Starling, the chair of the city’s parks and recreation committee, led off the discussion, saying the issue was a “personal embarrassment.”
“For me, it’s kind of tearing apart the social fabric of our society,” he said. “These two groups seem to be very polarized and I don’t know what we can do to resolve that.”
He expressed support for Kovach Park, saying building in Centennial Park, with its questionable ground fill, could lead to long-term structural problems.
Reading from a study done for the City of Lethbridge, he said Kovach Park fit the location criteria for a neighbourhood skateboard park. “If you are going to ask me if it’s perfect — it’s not perfect,” he said. “We have a number of people objecting to this that I have known for years and I don’t feel comfortable on one hand voting in favour of it but on the other hand I feel that I have to do what is right for our community and the majority of the people.”
Each councillor took the time to state their position. Linda Nixon voted in support of Kovach Park. “I think there is an opportunity to provide a model neighbourhod park that is fully intergenerational,” she said. “I would really like to see staff work with the skateboard park association and the neighbourhood.”
Chris Johnston voted against Kovach Park. He said council was being pressed to make a decision for the sake of making a decision, not because it was the right one. “As far as I can see, this is it, and it’s going to be it for a long, long time,” he said. “We’re not going to be having other [skateboard parks] so we better do it right the first time even if we have to wait a little bit longer.”
Tony Scarcella voted against Kovach Park, saying that grant funding should be sought to do a geotechnical study of Centennial Park and that Kovach Park, located in a residential neighbourhood, was not the right place. “It’s about the future of Revelstoke and I don’t feel that for the future of Revelstoke Kovach Park is the right place.”
Steve Bender expressed agreement with Scarcella, and he also raised the issue of police monitoring and put himself in the mindset of the neighbours. “Wait a minute – you want to build something beside my house that needs monitoring? What?!” he said. “That doesn’t feel very good. People live there, they don’t want it. They’re ratepayers, they’re zoned residential.”
Phil Welock said he supported Kovach Park and that the CVSA should work with neighbourhood residents as they move forward. “I think right now Kovach is the right place for a small, enhanced skateboard park,” he said. “It’s in the public eye, it’s on the bus route and I think its’ already 55–60 per cent effective as it is now.”
That left Mayor Raven to express his opinion and cast the deciding vote. He said council needed to consider both the supporters and the opposition, but also the advice of staff. He voted in favour of Kovach Park, citing the costs of investigating Centennial Park, and the potential problems that could come from drilling into an old landfill site.
“I apologize to the neighbourhood, but it’s an enhancement to the park,” he said. He then turned his words to the CVSA and advised them to be cautious moving forward. “You’ve got a tremendous responsibility and obligation and society is going to be looking for responsible actions as we go forward from here.”
Josie Woodman, who lives near Kovach Park and has helped lead opposition to expanding the existing skateboard park, said she was disappointed in council’s vote, but not surprised. She said she asked Karl Jost to keep the new skatepark the same size as the existing one, which is 16,000-square-feet.
“I would just be really encouraged as a compromise, as an olive branch, it wouldn’t cost so much, it would get done sooner,” she said. “I’m hoping that the CVSA, now that they have a spot, will consider the neighbours.”
Note: Aaron Orlando, the editor of the Times Review, is the secretary with the CVSA. He played no part in the writing of this article, other than providing a recording of the council discussion.