August 27, 2018
For close to 30 years, residents of Antigonish, Nova Scotia have been trying to build a Skatepark. Repeated laborious efforts were squashed for various reasons. Residents have had to battle skateboard bans, fines, dangerous alternatives to parks, negative views of skateboarders, and having temporary sites removed. A short documentary created by Joanna Bisson of ACALATV productions in 2013 (available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nxrtwe5g7A ) highlights some of the struggles of local riders. Recently, partnerships between the Antigonish Town and County elected officials, St FX University, and a renewed drive from the Antigonish Skatepark Collective have finally successfully secured a location for a park (see attached press release). A $250,000 grand prize from Kraft/Heinz would give the community of Antigonish the park they have been dreaming of for 30 years. This gift would allow the community to go ahead with the construction of a world-class concrete skate park. The vision for this world-class skate park is a concrete riding space capable of training potential future Olympians surrounded by greenspace where parents could read a book or spectators could cheer on their friends learning new tricks. A cost of $700,000 has been estimated as the total means necessary to complete a park. While a small portion of funds have been raised by previous efforts from past skate park association volunteers, there is still a significant portion to be raised. The Antigonish Skatepark Collective wants the children and youth of this community to have a safe, accessible place to ride their skateboards, scooters, bicycles, rollerblades, and any other form of wheels they choose. Ensuring the park is built to modern safety standards falls on raising enough funds to afford the price tag that comes with that safety.
Having a safe, accessible place for our youth to play is the number one driving factor for wanting a skate park in Antigonish. Currently, approximately 27% of the population of this community is living in poverty. Having free, accessible forms of recreation is a priority for this town. Almost 500 youth aged 11-14 were surveyed and 90% said they already owned a bike, skateboard, or scooter. Some of the many thoughtful answers as to what would be positive about having a Skate park were: more kids outside, more kids physically active, it would be fun, it would be a great place to socialize with friends/other riders, I could learn new tricks/get better at my sport, we could host events, it would boost tourism, we wouldn’t have to travel to Halifax anymore, I would know where to go to meet the other riders, parent would know where we were, it could be frequently checked on by RCMP, more people would actively transport themselves, it would give people like me something to do besides video games, kids can get off their phones/ipods, something more to do in Antigonish, more recreation in town, it would get riders off the street/sidewalk/post office/library, there would be more people around to help you if you got hurt, there wouldn’t be drugs around, it would be safer for pedestrians, there would be cool artwork, it would be good for the community, it would keep kids out of trouble, and so on… Some more benefits of having a safe place to play in our community: 1. SKATE PARKS REDUCE ILLICIT BEHAVIOR Skateboarding will be an Olympic event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The myth surrounding skate parks is that they are a breeding ground for crime and other illicit activities. While there will be an occasional “bad seed”, providing designated spaces for positive activities is the best way to curb unlawful behavior among youth. When youth having nothing to do or nowhere to go – that is when they cause trouble. 2. SKATE PARKS PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR SKATEBOARDING The majority of skateboarding injuries happen outside skate parks. The most common injuries are falls due to surface irregularities and collisions with motor vehicles or pedestrians. Two grade five students surveyed quoted that they had been hit by cars while biking in other areas of town. Skateboarding is going to happen whether skate parks exist or not, so the best way to keep youth safe is to provide them access to safe, designated spaces to pursue their activity. 3. SKATE PARKS REDUCE DAMAGE TO PRIVATE PROPERTY Without designated skate parks, skateboarders will make use of any and all terrain in their community. This often includes the private property of home owners and local businesses, as well as public spaces such as downtown plazas. Metal skateboard axles and BMX pegs can destroy paint and chip concrete, causing thousands of dollars in damage every year. Public skate parks are a win-win because skateboarders have a safe place to pursue their passion, while law enforcement, business owners and community members no longer have to spend time, money and energy shooing skateboarders away from their property. 4. SKATEBOARDING HAS SIGNIFICANT PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS Arguably the most important reason for participating in action sports is the fact that it keeps you healthy and physically fit. Finding an activity that gets kids off the couch and keeps them in shape is vital for the youth of this nation, especially in this time of a national health crisis. 5. SKATEBOARDING HAS SIGNIFICANT MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS Skateboarding is a unique activity because it combines extreme physical exertion with precise muscle coordination and balance. The complexity of performing tricks on a skateboard improves brain function at a fundamental level and stimulates new cell growth in the brain.