The City of Revelstoke Parks and Recreation committee asked staff for a report on Centennial Park before making any recommendation on the location of a new skateboard park.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 9, the skateboard park issue was raised at a meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Culture committee. Sitting at the table were Laurie Donato, the director of Parks and Recreation; Mayor David Raven, councillors Gary Starling, Tony Scarcella and Linda Nixon; Area B director Loni Parker, and four members of the Columbia Valley Skateboarding Association.
The day before, council heard a presentation by the CVSA about moving the location of a new skateboard park back to Kovach Park.
Donato went over a list of possible locations and the pros and cons of each one. She touched on both city parks and private lands. The list included Mount Begbie and Mountain View schools, unused CP Rail property, land designated for affordable housing, and every city park in the core of Revelstoke.
When it came down to it, the conversation turned to Centennial Park versus Kovach Park, with a clear appetite to make sure the former was unfeasible before turning to the latter.
The main issue with Centennial Park, Donato said, was the presence of an old landfill underneath. The exact location of the landfill is unknown and an expensive study would have to be undertaken in order to build. Even if the skateboard park isn’t directly on top the landfill, it would still be on top of fill material that was laid down when the park was built.
“Any investigation we’re going to do of that area is going to cost a siginficant amount of money,” she said. “That’s just the first step in determining if the land is feasible for development. That’s a large expense on a 50-50 chance.”
Kovach Park faces localized opposition but that could be addressed by working with the neighbours.
“Issues with conflicting uses can be addressed through site planning,” she said.
The unanimous opinion at the meeting was to at least get an idea of what’s beneath Centennial Park and to find out how much a geotechnical study would cost before making a decision.
“We don’t know that isn’t a landfill and we need to research that,” said Nixon. “I know it’s going to cost some money. I know it’s going to delay things a bit.”
Her thoughts were echoed by director Parker, who said the committee should make a recommendation based on facts. “Maybe we should do a paper investigation to begin with and if we can’t find anything on paper then move forward and do some drilling,” she said. “The city should know what’s under there, whether there’s a skateboard park being put there or not.”
Mayor Raven brought up the cost issues. How much is the city willing to spend on studying the site to find out if it’s suitable or not. “Whether it’s part of a file site or a landfill site they both have engineering concerns,” he said. “This is a large concrete structure being put on top and they both have challenges.”
Aaron Orlando, a director with the CVSA, said it was doubtful the organization could get money for a study to see if Centennial Park could be used.
The committee asked to get a staff report back as soon as possible so a decision could be made before the end of the year.
City engineer lays out issues
The big question to emerge from all this is what exactly is underneath Centennial Park? I spoke to Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, to find out. Unfortunately, he replied, no one really knows. There was once a landfill there, but the exact location is unknown. The part of the park that sits on the old landfill, versus the part that sits on straight fill is not documented, as far as he can tell.
The best he’s been able to fine so far is a staff report from 2001 that only provided anecdotal information from former city employees.
“This report in 2001 does not in any real detail describe the full extent of areas that were used for landfill activities down there,” said Thomas.
The report identifies where the landfill was, but not in any real detail. It doesn’t loook like any environmental work was done at the time, said Thomas. “It appears to have been a desktop study of all the issues and some anecdotal work,” he said. “I don’t believe they did any field work in 2001.”
When the landfill was covered up there was nothing regulating the closure of landfills and no documentation was made of the exact boundaries of the landfill.
Bob Melnyk, a city parks foreman, said in a letter to the Times Review the site designated for the skateboard is on top of fill, and not landfill. Even then, that could still pose problems depending on what exactly was used for fill; it is thought the fill consists of stumps and old cars, amongst other material.
“It looks like best efforts were made to clean up the site and provide playing surfaces and make it safe for use,” said Thomas. “Placing fill material down doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily placed in a manner that it’s suitable to place a large structure on. That’s where we’re at — for some direction on what that cost would be. What would be required to proceed with that?
“From a staff perspective we believe it’s prudent to raise these concerns before any money starts getting spent on the site that may impact the cost of investigations and ultimately the cost of construction of the facility in that location.”
How much will it cost for a geotechnical study? Thomas estimated a low end of $15,000 but “it might be a lot more,” he added.
It would require boring several holes through any fill material until you hit the ground proper, and would need sign off from a qualified engineer.
“Spending that money should be directing a decision you will make,” he said. “In that sense if there’s appetite to do this study, it will help make the decision on Centennial Park.”