Robert’s column

Skate park expansion good for kids, and their health

Robert’s column

It’s good to see that work is finally beginning on the long-anticipated expansion at the popular X-Treme Skate Park on James Street.

North Cowichan’s $200,000 expansion project will add about 6,000 square feet to the park, adjacent to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre and Cowichan Community Centre, and will accommodate different skill levels for boarders, bikes and scooters.

I find it exciting and progressive that the design of the expansion was based largely on input from the young kids that actually use the park.

That’s a big role in the planning process of a major facility that I doubt these youngsters have ever been asked to participate in before.

It was a learning opportunity for them that they will likely find useful later in their lives as their careers develop, whatever they may be.

And the fact that the skate park, by its very nature, encourages recreation, exercise and outdoor activities to a generation that is barely seen without phones, video games and other electronic devises inches from their faces is a real bonus.

Anyone who regularly drives by the X-Treme Skate Park, as I do, will have noticed that there’s often a crowd of young people there, practicing their skateboard and bike tricks and maneuvers while enjoying the camaraderie of their friends.

It reminded of when I was their age and my buddies and I would spend our free time, which was ample, engaged in sports and athletic recreational pursuits.

I recall that there was a video arcade, with such old delights as Pac-Man and Galaga, at the time in the small city that I grew up in, but we rarely ever visited it as we were much more content being outdoors and actually engaging in physical activities.

I visited the X-Treme Skate Park last year after the expansion plan for the park was first announced to get some reaction from the kids who frequent it.

They were delighted that I had come by to get their opinion and eagerly agreed to perform a bunch of high-energy jumps and tricks so I could photograph them for the paper.

I was impressed with their skills and I asked one of them if he would rather spend time at the park or playing video games.

He explained that while he really enjoys video games, the thrill of perfecting tricks on his skateboard with his friends is much better.

The kid said that he believes the reason that young people in the Cowichan Valley spend so much time absorbed in their phones and video games is that there is not much else for them to do here.

Of course, we do have swimming pools, skating rinks, ball fields and gyms in the Valley but, from many youngsters’ point of view, they usually involve having to connect and socialize with adults, which is anathema to a lot of them.

As well, many of these activities cost money, which is in short supply for many youths.

So facilities like the X-Treme Skate Park, where they can be alone with their buddies to enjoy themselves and get exercise at the same time, are often preferred.

It’s something that local governments and schools should wake up to and, with the expansion of the X-Treme Skate Park beginning, it seems they are getting the message.

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