Feature Story Sunday September 30, 2012
Webster Skate & Bike park opens
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz (R) and Coun. Jason Lum (L) hold the big red ribbon separating some excited riders and the new skate park Saturday.
t's the weekend in Chilliwack. Just about every sports facility and field in the city is being used for some kind of activity; Soccer, football, rugby, baseball and even lawn bowling to name a few. But if you're a skateboarder, or BMX'er, the selection of places to go run a few rails has been limited.
On Saturday, City staff and dignitaries, including Mayor Sharon Gaetz, councillors Stewart McLean and Jason Lum, added the newest jewel to the City's crown, opening the new $300,000 Webster Skate Park on Keith Wilson Rd in Sardis. Also on hand to help "smash" a bright red ribbon, were a few dozen excited kids.
It was a precedent-setting day in some ways for a segment of the community that have been somewhat renegade in the past, erecting bike jumps and tracks on vacant lots, only to have the City take them down.
But today, the kids can stash the shovels, the digging has ended. They've got stairwells, railings and slides and steps to test and develop their skills in a park that has been built to North American standards.
Gordon Pederson, Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture for the City of Chilliwack, told the Voice at the opening, that the "passive" area outside the fenced skate park will eventually be grassed-in and a playground added to the north end of the park.
With the new Sardis Library being built, room had to be made on the corner. So a decision was made to move the skate park a few blocks away to 446110 Keith Wilson Rd.
Initially, the City consulted with the public about design elements at an open house and also through the SardisSkatepark Facebook page and came up with a design that had a bowl for bikers and one for boarders.
Safety elements were incorporated into the design of the park. For instance, there isn't a sharp edge anywhere. Everything in the park is smooth and rounded. It's all about skateboards and bikes. Even the bench is an oversized skateboard.
One of the "latest and greatest" features in the park is a large dish about 12' wide for advanced boarders that looks fast and intimidating.
According to Pederson, there a few of the dishes scattered around North America, but not many.
"You can leave that open to the creativity of how you can use it, but my understanding is that we're the first ones in Canada to put one of those in," he said. "We'll also have the nice walking trail around the perimeter of the park."
Pederson said they've fielded an "impressive" amount of feedback because the park caters to a cross-section of skateboards and BMX bicycles, as well as scooters.
"What we were looking for was something to accommodate riders of different levels from beginner all the way to advanced."
Interestingly, Pederson says that like different golf courses which offer various layouts, skate parks are the same.
"You go to different courses to get different experiences, so now, between Yarrow, this particular park and the downtown all offer different experiences for each rider."
"What it allows us to do is combine two components in one. We have the bowl here for bicycles which we were able to do in a partnership with Telus," he said.
"Ensuring residents have quality recreational activities and opportunities are important for the City of Chilliwack," said Mayor Sharon Gaetz in a release. "It's exciting to see this brand new skate park so well used already. We can't wait to complete Webster Park as it will be another beautiful outdoor space for residents to enjoy."
Gaetz explained at the park, that Telus approached City Hall in earlier this year looking to form a partnership that might help the community in some way.
So she suggested the skate park project. The company loved the idea and promised to donate up to a maximum of $40,000.00.
Eric Nordgren, Telus Corporation Administration Support, thanked Gaetz and City staff for their work on the project and encouraged people to switch over to Telus and make a positive impact.
"Last June we announced the partnership where every new Optic TV customer in the community from June 5 to December 5, we'd be happy to donate $25.00 toward the construction and at last count it's over $12,000.00 that has been contributed.
"At Telus, we know that communities are stronger when we have safe and fun athletic activities for kids to engage in, so it's really nice for Telus to be able to help with that," Nordgren said adding his thanks to new Optic TV customers, "you really helped out our 'Give Where You Live' philosophy.
Local teen, Andrew Holloway, likes the park and says can't wait to use it but will stay well away from "the dish".
Gaetz told the crowd that at one time the park was a landfill.
"Do you know this used to be a garbage pit?" she asked the kids. "So what we did was, we raised it up, they brought in so many trucks full of gravel and then they put soil over top. They're going to put grass in here, they're going to put a playground park over here and there's going to be park over here as well," she said pointing to the freshly landscaped property.
Gaetz stressed that safety was paramount and that they didn't want kids using the park without helmets on.
"I know some of you think it looks cooler without a helmet, but I'm going to tell you that if you sustain a head injury, it will not be cool. So we don't want you to do that, we want you to be safe."
Inevitably, there's going to be some bumps and bruises while kids learn the new jumps. Not wearing a helmet at a skate park with the mayor there, who is also a mom, is a lot like not wearing a life preserver when the Coast Guard boards your vessel.
The Truth Skate and Snow Shop owner was at the opening and had some of his local talent wow the crowd with some extreme stunts.
See more photos below.
Southside Park Gets New Digs - August 18, 2011
Skateboard park Design Open House - February 7, 2012
Cash Comes Calling - May 20, 2012
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