The North Island has always had a weird aversion to skateparks.
That’s a blunt opening statement, but I don’t think anyone who’s reading this will actually deny it. Why is that? Because it’s a true statement, one that I can back up with facts.
You have to love facts. They’re one of my favourite things about being a journalist. Anytime someone complains about a news article I write I just tell them “sorry, it was all facts, numbers and quotes” and that generally ends the discussion.
Let’s get back to skateparks.
I’m going to focus on my hometown of Port Hardy, because frankly, I don’t know why Port McNeill and Port Alice don’t have active skateparks. Derek Koel and Debra Lynn would be better served to answer questions about that, as they live in those respective areas and would have more information on the subject. Let me know if you want them to investigate and write about skateparks.
Let’s take a trip back in time for a second.
When I was in high school (1998-2002), Port Hardy finally got it’s first ever skatepark built behind Port Hardy Secondary School. Who paid for it, you might be wondering? Local skaters fundraised the entire park and had it built, and it got used pretty frequently.
It was also a bad spot to have a skatepark. Poor lighting in the evenings, hidden away from the police behind the school, it was a natural attraction for trouble. This reputation did not help skateparks in the North Island.
When the skatepark was eventually condemned in 1999, the skaters banded together to get a new park built, but guess what? Port Hardy council refused to help fund it at all. The skaters were forced to find financing themselves to the tune of $20,000 for a cement pad, and then another $5,000-$10,000 for the plastic ramps, which are actually still being used at the park today (shoutout to Stephen Ralph and his crew for all their hard work).
The District of Port Hardy “donated” land to build on (which they eventually planned to take back when they wanted to build their monstrous multiplex project), and The Kyle Scow Memorial Skatepark finally opened to the public in 2003.
Since then, the district hasn’t done much other than basic upkeep to the park, promise funding in the budget before cutting it from the budget, and put in failed grant applications.
You can tell the KSM Skatepark is looked at like the black sheep of the family by the district, and every time I’ve pointed this out in the past I’ve received nothing but grief from the district, so much so that I don’t believe a brand new skatepark will ever be built here unless they receive a massive grant specifically for one like Alert Bay did.
Interesting tidbit, Port Hardy’s Chief Administrative Officer Heather Nelson-Smith was actually the CAO in Alert Bay who was instrumental in getting their state of the art skatepark built, yet for the life of me I can’t seem to recall Heather really doing anything for the KSM Skatepark since she was hired here, other than planning to move its location for the failed multiplex project. That’s not a knock on Heather by the way. She’s a paid employee, and like all paid employees, is given directives by her bosses (mayor and council) to follow, so to me it’s pretty clear that she’s not been given much guidance other than “keep the status quo” and “keep an eye out for grants” to apply for. If you feel I’m wrong about that, feel free to email me and we can have a back and forth discussion right here for the Gazette readership to enjoy.
Who knows, maybe Port Hardy, Port McNeill or Port Alice will surprise me in the future by building a brand new state of the art skatepark for the entire North Island to enjoy, but I’m not holding my breath.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter