Iqaluit city council hears more pleas on behalf of skate park
“Skateboarding can save a kid’s life. I know it did for me”
On Monday night, 17 Iqaluit residents trudged through blustery snow for a meeting to discuss the fate of the skateboard park.
Typically, it opens in May, but this year the city’s recreation department announced the skate park won’t open at the curling rink as usual this summer, due to dwindling use.
Instead, the city is looking at offering other activities for youth in the curling rink, such as floor hockey, mini-golf and tennis.
Recreation staff are still looking at installing one of the skate ramps at the curling rink for part of the summer.
“Because this matter was urgent, we decided to have another meeting before the next council meeting,” Coun. Joanasie Akumalik said.
Luc Brisebois, whose wife Carine Chalut created a petition to keep the skate park open, asked council members how many signatures they would need to demonstrate community support.
“If we have targets, we have something to work for,” Brisebois said.
“That is the kind of commitment we would like so that we are all working toward something tangible and achievable.”
More than 300 people signed their petition, but because it was online, he said there are likely more.
He also suggested a compromise.
“I know that you have started other activities here,” Brisebois said. “We could share the space. We could take three-quarters or half the space. We don’t want to cancel any other recreational activities. Skateboarding around town is pretty much impossible with the type of pavement we have.”
The total attendance from drop-ins at the skate park last year was 340.
Brisebois questioned the accuracy of those numbers, stating his family went at least 10 times last year, totalling 40 individual visits by his family alone. He said he knows of other families who used the space similarly.
Another resident, Patrick Beland, said he definitely thinks kids should skateboard.
“Skateboarding and being a teenager can go hand-in-hand and in many cases, skateboarding can save a kid’s life,” Beland said. “I know it did for me.”
No matter what, he plans to teach his kids and others to skate outside his own home, even if he has to clear the rocks himself.
“I just ask the city to consider the lifestyle aspect,” Beland said. “It is not just a sport, it is a hang-out spot, a philosophy, and when kids come and hang out all day, it means a lot to them. A two-hour window to go skate during suppertime doesn’t fulfill their needs.”
In his view, the skate park’s closure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“The city didn’t respect the lifestyle aspect of skateboarding.”
He suggests a transition period rather than “dropping the ball entirely,” encouraging organizers to tweak the schedule’s opening hours.
Iqaluit resident Barb Heming says the skate park was one of the reasons her family decided to move to Iqaluit.
“The first thing my son asked was, do they have a hockey team, I said yes, and he was like, ‘Meh,’ but I said, “And they have a skate park and he said, “That’s it, I am in, let’s pack our bags, I am coming,” Heming said.
However, her son would often go to the skate park to find the doors locked. “He would show up and there would be nobody here,” Heming said.
So by the end of the year, he stopped going.
She also said that a lack of planned events and advertising might explain the low attendance.
“When you don’t advertise for events, then don’t show up when you do, it makes it really difficult for the youth to access it,” she said.
But Conor Goddard, a youth coordinator with the city, who is also a skateboarder, said that as an employee he knows first-hand how empty the place was.
“The reality is the statistics are what they are,” Goddard said, explaining the daily average was five people on Saturdays in August of last year, but was overall 1.5 per day.
Goddard says events were advertised: barbecues and adult clinics, and even two youth clinics.
“I showed up that night and we had zero people,” Goddard said. “In both cases they were heavily advertised on social media. There was a will with the staff, but part of keeping them here is having people in the building.”
No decision was made on Monday, but Akumalik agreed that if more people sign the Chalut family’s petition before the next council meeting on June 12, as long as the signatures are those of Iqaluit residents, it could be brought up as a recommendation to council.
Brisebois said he will push to create a list of people who will commit to use the space and try to find a councillor to sponsor and support it in the meantime.