After a lengthy search for the safest location, North Cowichan is now going ahead with a new skate park on the former Chemainus Elementary School site.
The park, which is expected to be between 6,000 and 9,000 square feet in size will accommodate bikes, skateboards, scooters and in-line skates.
"We’re getting very close," said North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure. "It is very exciting." It’s taken years to find just the right place.
"We held a very good public meeting in the multi-purpose room at Chemainus Secondary last June and got very strong agreement both on locating the skate park on the old elementary school site and generally in the centre of the western boundary of that piece of property," he said.
"We have asked our parks and rec director, Ernie Mansueti, to consult with the youth especially in terms of the design and bring back a proposed design to council for final approval because we’d like to build it this year," Lefebure continued. A site had to meet several parameters.
"We were looking for a site that was easy for kids to get to, one that was open to public view, too," he said. "We were definitely concerned because we know there are some predators who, with regards to drugs or otherwise, who might take advantage of that situation if they were unobserved."
Other sites were ruled out because wet leaves in autumn might curtail use, he said, adding, "This one is also close to where the majority of users go every day."
North Cowichan got the land from the school district fairly simply because the municipal clerk discovered the municipality had given the property by bylaw for school use and when it was no longer needed for that it was to be returned.
"The school district also had a good reason because there is a large elementary school building and gymnasium that have to be taken down at quite a cost. It all fit together and we now do own the property again."
North Cowichan has the money in the budget and council is keen to get moving, he said.
"We are confident we can build the skate park and then build the rest of the park around that without compromising the site in any way," Lefebure said.
"It is exciting and encouraging to see the kids in our community engaged in the design process for the skate park and eager to see this facility built."
The local police are happy, too. "Safety in our community is a top priority, and we applaud North Cowichan for moving forward with this project," said Ray Carfantan, Officer in Charge of the Duncan-North Cowichan RCMP detachment.
"When communities provide these types of recreational facilities, it steers skaters away from roads and sidewalks improving safety for participants, pedestrians and motorists," he added. According to North Cowichan, the municipality will hold another community meeting to review the overall concept plan for the former school site.