Wrong location for Chemainus skate park, say foes

Battle lines have been drawn in advance of a decision North Cowichan council will be making Aug. 20 about whether or not to build a skate park at the old Chemainus Elementary School site.

"It is not the place for a skateboard park," said Geoff Service, a resident of nearby Severn Street.

The biggest problem with the site, he said, is that the topography creates a bowl effect, amplifying any noise and projecting it back at the neighbours.

Service said that by nature a skate park is noisy, louder than a regular school playground.

Further, locating a skate park in a neighbourhood is just a bad idea, he argued, and he worries that it will have a negative impact on property values in the area.

Service is also angry with the process that’s been undertaken by the Municipality of North Cowichan to date.

"This has just been rammed through by council," he said.

A public meeting in Chemainus on July 22 on the subject drew 60 to 70 people, he said, mostly neighbours. The vast majority of them were opposed to the project, he said, but that voice is being ignored.

The skatepark should go in a recreation area, Service said, such as at Fuller Lake.

Not everyone in Chemainus opposes the building of a skate park at the old elementary school site, however.

New Chemainus resident Chris Istace wrote in a long submission to council that he is firmly in support of the plan, and thinks it will be a great thing for the community and the neighbourhood.

"The park encourages youth to participate in physical activity, which in today’s culture, with the increased use of electronics as activity, is a constant topic," he said.

The central location at the old school is a good one for a number of reasons, he continued, including easy walkability for kids and teens to use it, proximity to fire, police and medical services, it’s close to restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and the spot is highly visible, which promotes family use of the space.

"I feel disappointed that the noise of children playing, creativity and exercise are looked down upon," he said, addressing the noise question.

Istace is a former city councillor for the community of Estevan, Sask. The skatepark built in that community, he said, has been nothing but a success.

He and his wife have leased a space in downtown Chemainus with the intention of starting a clothing and sporting goods store, and plans to include skateboard gear in his merchandise.

He is disappointed in the opposition to the skate park, and said it creates the feeling that the Town of Chemainus is "unwelcoming to new ideas" and "lacks vision".

"From a personal point of view, when we moved here I felt the community extremely inviting, non-judging and full of positive energy," Istace said.

"Now that the ugly face of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) has shown itself, I am actually very disappointed and wouldn’t think this would happen here. Please don’t allow this attitude to prevail."