(ABOVE: Stittsville dad John Hughes wants to see an upgrade or an entirely new skatepark in Stittsville. And sooner rather than later. Photo by Jordan Mady.)
John Hughes, 47, looked around at the skateboard park next to the Goulbourn Recreation Complex (GRC) as three young girls used one of its drop-in ramps as a slide.
There wasn’t a skateboarder in sight. Hughes said his kids, 13 and 10, don’t use the park, either.
“I was attending my son’s baseball practice and my youngest son was here waiting with me and he didn’t want to take part in the park here. He said it wasn’t big enough and they didn’t have enough places to tricks,” Hughes said.
“And I know so because I’m always taking them to the Kanata skatepark where it’s full of kids. And they seem to enjoy it there, but I can’t keep them here in Stittsville because they don’t want to come here. ”
Hughes says he thinks the current Stittsville skatepark should be at least relocated closer to stores where kids would have access to restaurants and shelter.
“As a parent who lives in Stittsville, I pay my taxes here and I like to keep my kids in Stittsville. Nothing wrong with Kanata, but I don’t want to have to drive there and wait for two to three hours before they’re finished,” he said. “There’s not enough for them to do around here and while it’s nice that they have this here, it’s not being utilized the way it should be because it’s not big enough.”
The Stittsville skatepark used to be bigger. When the City added another ice pad to the GRC in 2011, the adjacent parking lot was moved over and the skateboard surface was reduced to compensate for the update.
“(City) staff at that time was not even recommending putting the skatepark back in. But I insisted that we were losing the two skateparks we had,” councillor Shad Qadri said.
Around two years prior to GRC expansion, a summer-only indoor skatepark at Johnny Leroux Arena was discontinued due to declining usage, leaving the community with one less recreational amenity.
The one option the City considered was building a skateboard junction next to Alexander Grove ballpark. Qadri and City staff later decided against this because it would’ve involved the removal of several large pine trees.
But Qadri said there’s an investigation process under way for a brand new skateboard park in the Fernbank area. There’s also discussion to include a BMX track in the same space.
“Stittsville is a growing community. It’s getting even younger as a community,” he said. “But with skateboard parks, they don’t get used properly unless they get the right equipment and the right size. And there’s where we’re at is trying to get that right sizing.”
There’s also a significant cost associated with installing new skateparks. According to Dan Chenier, general manager of parks, recreation and cultural services, city council implemented a community development initiative called the Interim Skateboard Strategy in 2012. Within this initiative, costs range from local skateparks at $150,000 to city-wide skateparks at over $400,000. Stittsville’s current skatepark falls within the local skatepark threshold.
The price tag on the recently-opened Innovation Skate Park, part of the Richcraft Recreation Complex in Kanata was $450,000.
Considering this, any plans for another Stittsville skatepark will take time and money to execute. But Hughes would still like to see the process accelerated.
“Keep (children) here and give them something to do,” he said. “At least we know where the kids are rather than wandering the neighbourhoods causing trouble.”
“I’d like to keep them here in Stittsville for sure.”