Are Skatepark Staff Needed in Calgary?

Do you think Calgary’s skateparks should have staff?

The mobile skateparks are staffed, Westside Rec Centre skatepark has staff, and Millennium Park had staff from the time it opened in 1999 until 2008.

The word “staff” can give the wrong impression. These aren’t “park narcs” that will tell you to put your helmet on or stop swearing. The staff at Millennium Park were all skaters and loved skating at Millennium. They had access to the small office in the building at in the middle of the park. There, they replaced bearings and hardware, tightened/loosened trucks, and did first aid for minor injuries. Usually they had extra helmets and wax for whomever needed them. Most of the staff were quick to grab their broom and dustpan and sweep out areas where debris blew in– before the Parks staff got there. They also called 911 in the rare case it was needed.

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Another function of the Millennium skatepark staff at was to record how many people were using each area of the park: beginner, intermediate, expert, and general observers. This was done hourly. These statistics are valuable as they actually show how well-used the skatepark is.

Perhaps the most important job of the “skatepark hosts” was educating users and observers. Whether it was telling someone why they shouldn’t sit on a ledge or spit where everyone stands, the hosts made a difference. Etiquette was at the forefront of their duties, including teaching newer users the flow of the park and how to take turns. Novice users would be directed to beginner areas where they could hone their skills at an appropriate level. We know that the Millennium skatepark staff taught more than a handful of skaters how to drop in.

They also taught observers about the history of the park and even helped introduce some of them to skateboarding.

Let us know: should Millennium and the newer skateparks have staff?

The Bridge Spot DIY

We’ve mentioned Calgary’s DIY skate spots a couple of times and now there is a new spot that has seen a fair share of work go into it by some dedicated skateboarders.

Known as “The Bridge”, it was build by a handful of hard-working shredders known as DIYYC beginning in July 2016.

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It started with the smaller triangular barrier along the bike path, but grew to several obstacles on the west edge of the land. Mostly covered by a bridge (hence the name), the spot is skateable in the rain, provided the wind isn’t blowing too hard. It’s not lit.

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The creators of the Bridge urge you to respect the spot. It was created by them, at their own expense. The rules are pretty simple: No bikes, no scooters, no littering, and no graffiti. We don’t want this spot to go the way of Toronto’s recent DIY skatepark.img_4822

Police have checked it out and seemed to have given passive approval so far. They recognize that the creators and users of the Bridge are keeping an otherwise unusable empty lot clean. Skaters are also activating a dead space, driving out potential illicit activity.

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There are plans to expand the Bridge; at press time there was a major built of a new obstacle.

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Many casual observers and non-skaters might as, “Why do you need to build your own skatepark when there’s a huge one near by?”

There are a number of reasons. The first being to have a spot or park in Calgary that is solely for skateboarding. Many of us enjoy the new skateparks but at times they’re a victim of their own success– they can be really busy. When there are scooters, bikes, and other non-skaters using the parks, they can become tricky, not to mention dangerous to navigate, much less have fun at.

The second reason the creators of the Bridge built it is so that they could have something of their own. The satisfaction gained from riding the fruits of your own labour is unlike any other. Building it themselves has allowed the DIY crew to maintain a certain construction standard, where they need not worry about shoddy builds like the one at Southwood skatepark.

Consider a community garden, for instance. A group comes together for a common goal– to create a garden together so that they may harvest it. DIY spots are no different. They involve a community coming together to create something that they all can use and benefit from.

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The DIYYC would like to expand it, but they’re cautious. There’s a good chance a future pipeline might run along the tracks, very close to the Bridge spot. Too add more obstacles only to have them destroyed seems pointless, according to the Bridge spot creators. A lot of money, time, and supplies, has gone into the spot.

“Ideally I would like it if the city would just leave this place alone and see how it works, how it integrates with the community”, says one of the creators. “The Skatepark Amenities Strategy calls for ‘skateable terrain’ and that’s what we’re creating here. I’d love to see this be kind of like a pilot for future projects like it and maybe get neighbourhood kids involved. It seems hard to get kids involved in anything these days. We can do something like this elsewhere in the city and get the kids invested.”

He goes on to say, “I would love it if the city would come to an agreement with us and give us this parcel of land and let us build what we want, like Leeside. If we had to come up with a design or plans, we could do that.”

Here’s a little video of Dan R skating The Bridge, Fonda Slab, and a few other DIY spots:

DIY spots are new to Calgary. There’s no blueprint or “strategy” for them so they might be hard for some people to understand. As skateboarders, we recognize the need to create and tailor our own spots to our own needs. We hope DIY spots like The Bridge, Fonda Slab, and any other spots that might pop up will stick around and be accepted or at least be allowed to remain.

As always, give us feedback if you have anything to say about this spot. If you want to learn more about DIY spots, look up Burnside, Mark “Red” Scott and how Dreamland Skateparks began.

Thanks to Royal Boardshop

We want to give a huge thanks to Royal Board Shop for donating proceeds from the sale of their Huntington Hills and Southwood decks to us!

Thanks to everyone who bought the boards too. They are now sold out.

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City of Calgary Ramp Bylaw Updated!

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Evan Woolley photo

30 years after a City of Calgary councillor helped pass a the bylaw prohibiting ramps on private property, our current council has updated the bylaw to allow them.
Thanks to Councillor Woolley`s notice of motion filed last year, council voted 8-6 last night in favour of the bylaw updates which include: ramp size limits (6M by 5M by 1.5 M), location rules (backyards only), and setbacks. See full bylaw breakdown below.

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Richard Coumont photo

 

Here`s what was passed last night and will take effect November 21st, 2016:

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO LAND USE BYLAW 1P2007

1. The City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw, being Bylaw 1P2007 of the City of Calgary, as amended, is hereby further amended as follows:

(a) Delete and replace the text in Section 13(130) with: “(130) “skateboard and sports ramp” means structure(s) that provide a surface upon which an individual may use or operate a skateboard, bicycle, scooter, roller skates or other similar devices. Skateboard and sports ramp structures may include re-purposed furniture or other skateable or bikeable above grade surfaces, but does not include at-grade surfaces such as, but not limited to, soil, grass, wood or concrete.”

(b) Add a new subsection to section 25 as follows: “(e.1) the construction of skateboard and sports ramps located in the Districts contained within Part 5: Low Density Residential Districts, or Part 6: MultiResidential Districts;”

(c) Delete and replace the text in Section 60(2) with:
“(2) The rules regarding building design referenced in subsection (1) do not apply to:
(a) an addition that does not increase the gross floor area of the building by more than 10.0 per cent of the gross floor area legally existing as of June 09, 2014; and
(b) a fence, gate, deck, landing, patio, skateboard and sports ramp, air conditioning unit, satellite dish, hot tub, above ground private swimming pool, and an Accessory Residential Building.”
(d) Delete and replace the text in Section 61(2) with: “(2) The rules regarding building design referenced in subsection (1) do not apply to:
(a) an addition that does not increase the gross floor area of the building by more than 10.0 per cent of the gross floor area legally existing as of June 09, 2014; and
(b) a fence, gate, deck, landing, patio, skateboard and sports ramp, air conditioning unit, satellite dish, hot tub, above ground private swimming pool, and an Accessory Residential Building.”

(e) Add a new section 343.2 as follows: “343.2 “Skateboard and Sports Ramps”

(1) All skateboard and sports ramp structures must be located within the maximum envelope dimensions of 1.5 metres high by 5.0 metres wide by 6.0 metres long.

(2) More than one structure may be contained within the maximum envelope dimensions referenced in subsection (1).

(3) The maximum envelope dimensions referenced in subsection (1) do not include at-grade surfaces such as, but not limited to, soil, grass, wood or concrete.

(4) Notwithstanding subsection (1), railings for safety purposes may extend beyond the maximum envelope dimensions referenced in subsection (1) provided they are not designed or used as a surface upon which to operate a skateboard, bicycle, scooter, roller skates or other similar device.

(5) There must only be one skateboard and sports ramp envelope per parcel.

(6) All skateboard and sports ramp structures must be located between the rear façade of the main residential building and the rear property line.

(7) The height of a skateboard and sports ramp at any point is measured from grade.

(8) All skateboard and sports ramp structures, including railings for safety purposes, must be located a minimum of 1.2 metres from a side property line.

(9) All skateboard and sports ramp structures, including railings for safety purposes, must be located a minimum of 1.2 metres from a rear property line.

(10) Skateboard and sports ramp structures must not be included in parcel coverage.

(11) A skateboard and sports ramp must not be attached to a deck, another structure, fence, or building such as, but not limited to, a main residential building, Backyard Suite or Accessory Residential Building.”

(f) Delete subsection 344(7) in its entirety.
(g) Amend subsection 344(8) to bold the first instance of “parcel”.
(h) Add a new section 571.2 as follows: “571.2 “Skateboard and Sports Ramps”

(1) All skateboard and sports ramp structures must be located within the maximum envelope dimensions of 1.5 metres high by 5.0 metres wide by 6.0 metres long.

(2) More than one structure may be contained within the maximum envelope dimensions referenced in subsection (1).

(3) The maximum envelope dimensions do not include at-grade surfaces such as, but not limited to, soil, grass, wood or concrete.

(4) Notwithstanding subsection (1), railings for safety purposes may extend beyond the maximum envelope dimensions referenced in subsection (1) provided they are not designed or used as a surface upon which to operate a skateboard, bicycle, scooter, roller skates or other similar device.

(5) There must only be one skateboard and sports ramp envelope per parcel.

(6) All skateboard and sports ramps structures must be located between the rear façade of the main residential building and the rear property line.

(7) The height of a skateboard and sports ramp at any point is measured from grade.

(8) All skateboard and sports ramp structures, including railings for safety purposes, must be located a minimum of 1.2 metres from a side property line.

(9) All skateboard and sports ramp structures, including railings for safety purposes, must be located a minimum of 1.2 metres from a rear property line.

10) A skateboard and sports ramp must not be attached to a deck, another structure, fence, or building such as, but not limited to, a main residential building, Backyard Suite or Accessory Residential Building.

(11) Notwithstanding sections 550, 551, and 557, skateboard and sports ramps may be included in the calculation of landscaped area, hard surfaced landscape area, soft surfaced landscaped area or common amenity space.” (i) Delete subsection 564(7) in its entirety.

2. This Bylaw comes into force on 2016 November 21.

Respect the DIY Spots

There are now a handful of DIY skate spots in Calgary. DIY stands for “do it yourself”. That means that individuals or groups of individuals have used their own time and resources to design and build these skateparks.

DIY skateparks aren’t a new concept. Burnside Project in Portland, Leeside in Vancouver, FDR in Philadelphia, and Channel Street in San Pedro are some of the best known ones.

 

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Burnside

Skaters at these DIY parks adhere to a specific set of rules and often self-police them with tenacity that comes from pride– pride from pouring their hearts and souls into these parks. And it a many cases, a lot of funds.

Rules at Burnside, for example, include no scooters, no bike pegs, and no drugs or alcohol. It comes down to respect. If you respect the builders and the park, you’ll be allowed to skate there. If you disrespect it, chances are you will be very unwelcome by the locals and likely banned.

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Channel Street

The function of “harsh locals” is two-fold– they keep out riff raff like drug users and others who seek out places to engage in illicit behaviours. They also ensure that no one is disrespecting their park. And make no mistake– it is their park. They built it so they get to say who uses it. Think of it as their house.

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Leeside

These rules aren’t that different from the sanctioned skateparks we have. PLEASE respect our parks, both DIY and legit. Don’t litter, don’t loiter, don’t snake, and just treat people how you would like to be treated. Offer help– chances are it will be accepted. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a local one day.

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FDR

 

Southwood Skatepark Damage

One of Calgary’s new skateparks, Southwood, has some unfortunate damage to the “clamshell” section of the bowl. Be very cautious when skating this area as the cracks are large enough to halt a wheel or grind.

We’ve been in contact with the city and hope they address this issue quickly. Southwood Skatepark was opened in the spring of 2016.

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Midnapore Skate Spot is Open

Calgary’s newest skatepark to open is the Midnapore skate spot.

So far, reports are positive on skateability and construction quality. Here’s a photo from opening day, courtesy of Wilco Contractors:midnapore-done-wilco

The park is located behind the Mid-Sun Community Centre, at 50 Midpark Rise SE.

City of Calgary Skateboard Ramp Bylaw – Final Vote November 7th

The updated “sports ramp” (skateboard ramp) bylaw goes to City of Calgary council on November 7th for final approval. Administration has been working on the wording and technical aspects of the bylaw and now council must vote on it.33

On June 20th, council voted to “Direct administration to prepare amendments to Land Use Bylaw 1P2007 that would implement the proposed regulations set out in Attachment 2“, meaning city staff could keep working on the bylaw changes. The vote was 10-5 with the following councillors against:

R. Pootmans, A. Chabot, S. Chu, D. Colley-Urquhart, P. Demong

On September 22nd, the Calgary Planning Commission recommended that council approve the new ramp bylaw.

If you support having the ability to have a ramp in your yard, feel free to contact these councillors  mentioned above and respectfully explain why this new bylaw is needed. A lot of work has been done regarding the perceived noise of ramps and the city’s studies have shown that ramps are no louder than any other recreational activities that people participate in on their property.

You may also attend the council meeting on November 7th to support changes to the skateboard ramp bylaw by speaking in City of Calgary council. #calgaryskateboarding

 

Interview: Richard White

Richard White is and has been a lot of things: scientist, art gallery curator, urbanist, Newspaper columnist, and blogger. He was actually the director of the Calgary Downtown Association in the late 1990s and played a significant role in developing Millennium Park.
His blog, Everyday Tourist, often mentions skateboarding and skateboarders. Richard has a unique perspective on skateboarding– he’s a smart guy that we can all learn from. We sat down and picked his brain about how skateboarding fits into Calgary’s urban landscape.

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Richard White

Are you originally from Calgary?

No. I was born in Hamilton, ON and came to Calgary in 1984.

What brought you here?

Well, what originally brought me to Alberta was my wife to be. She got a job in Valleyview, and later a job in Strathmore so eventually I got my dream job of being the executive director and curator of the Muttart Art Gallery, which is now Contemporary Calgary. The Muttart Art Gallery was on the second floor of Memorial Park Library.

Contemporary Calgary is an interesting connection– we actually submitted a proposal for the old World of Science building, hoping to develop an indoor skatepark in the warehouse area. However, Contemporary Calgary was selected to operate the space. An indoor skatepark next to Millennium would have been great!

That’s what I love about skateboarding– you guys are committed 12 months of the year. I mean, you’re OUT there. To me, the ones who use our parks and public spaces 12 months of the year are skateboarders and smokers. For downtown, I would accommodate the smokers because in -30, they’re the ones that are going to be out on the street. And instead of them throwing their butts on the street– they’re not criminals, just because they’re different– why not make it look good? Make it look more like an acceptable activity with a place to throw their cigarette butts.
It’s the same with skateboarders– I look at the park that they built on Macleod Trail (at 12th Avenue SW).  To me it looks like a skateboard park. And they do skate there. And the one day I was there, there were only skateboarders there, but I’m sure it’s illegal to skateboard there. So that’s the thing I object to– they build these plazas and parks and they basically tease the skateboarders and then they tell them they can’t do it there. It’s like with Poppy Plaza.

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A skateboarder at Poppy Plaza

I was actually going to mention Poppy Plaza. It was designed and built as a memorial for war veterans. However, it happens to be one of the best skate spots in the city. How do you feel about skaters using the plaza for something other than was intended ? And do you  think the architects knew it would be so functional as a skate spot?

I’ve already written about that, as you know. I say absolutely they should use it. And I don’t see it as being disrespectful to the war veterans who fought for freedom. You know, that is freedom. To me, it’s silly not to design it for skateboarders because otherwise it’s not going to get a lot of use. Poppy Plaza isn’t getting a lot of use. But I think you need to design them in such a way that can take the wear and tear of the skateboard. Whether that’s an increased cost, I don’t know. Maybe it’s every second or third public space we create needs to consider skateboarding.
I was recently downtown and there was a bunch of guys skating downtown at McDougall Centre. They were from Edmonton and came to check out the spots here.

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Skateboarders at McDougall Centre

How do you feel about cities installing defensive architecture to keep people away, especially using “skate stoppers” to keep skateboarders away?

It’s a tough one for the property owner because their first commitment is to the tenants. I’m more concerned about public spaces. Either you build it so skateboarders can’t use it, or you incorporate skateboarding. And why wouldn’t you incorporate it in every public space?

There are architects who state that they are thrilled when they learn skateboarders are using their creations for something other than their intended purpose.

I think most planners and architects would be for skateboarders. In a public space, they want to see as many uses as possible. I would say that even an architect for an office building would love that it gets used for skateboarding. They’d never admit that to the building owner, but why not? Especially office buildings, which are devoid of any life on evenings and weekends. And one of the things that’s unique about Calgary is we have these long evenings in the summer, so that’s probably the best time for skateboarding. That’s where I’d like to see multi-purpose buildings.

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Victoria Park Plaza

What’s your professional background? Your website says you were a scientist, art gallery curator, and 3D animation guy. 

My educational background is a Masters in plant science. I was doing a Ph.D at McMaster University in cell cycle kinetics. I quit that to become a painter– a visual artist. So I was an artist from 1980-1985. I was curator from 1985-1995, then I became executive director of the Downtown Association. That’s where I became interested in urban development and urban planning. I went from there to working for Ridell Kurczaba Architects, managing their 3D animation studio. We did the West LRT station, East Village, Currie Barracks, Quarry Park. It was interesting, hanging around with young people. None of them were skateboarders though. I’ve never skateboarded myself. I do visit skateboard parks in any city I travel to.

You had a clear perspective on the Edgemont skatepark situation in 2015. What do you think motivated the NIMBY set in this case? Fear of property values dropping? Fear of the unknown?

I think it is fear of the unknown. If there are things they don’t understand– I’ve just made this connection with art– but when I was a curator people wouldn’t like artwork. I’d ask them why and it was often because they didn’t understand it. If you don’t understand something as an adult, you don’t like it. That’s probably the key in a lot of NIMBYism. They don’t understand the development. In some cases, they just don’t agree with it but in other cases they don’t understand why it’s being done.
In the case of skateboarding, I think a lot of people don’t understand the independence of it. We don’t want it to be formalized like hockey or soccer, or most other sports where you have a coach and the parents have control. It’s a true street culture activity. That probably scares people– they don’t understand that because that’s not the way most people think. It’s easy on the outside, thinking, “It doesn’t impact me,” but when it happens in their backyard, they get more vocal. There are a lot of people who are pro-development, pro-infill, and pro-density, until it arrives in their community. I think it’s just human nature, to always look for the negative.
It’s almost always the case with NIMBYs– a vocal minority who has time on their hands; mostly seniors. They’re probably concerned with property values, because if there happens to be a short term dip, they’re the ones most affected. But in the long term once it becomes part of the community, a skatepark is either neutral or increases the value of that area. Especially if the area is going to be family friendly. But a place like Edgemont went from being family friendly, to being mostly seniors.

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Edgemont Park

It’s ironic that Edgemont residents were worried about property values dropping– we now regularly see real estate listings mentioning their proximity to skateparks. Do you think amenities like skateparks are beneficial to communities?

I think it just depends. It’s like any amenity. If you’re going to use it, it’s an amenity. If you’re not going to use it, it’s neutral. Like a coffee shop, for example. If it’s going to increase parking issues, one person might  say, “Now I can’t park in front of my house,” but another will say “it’s an amenity”.
We live in a culture that’s very diverse– that’s what we say about politicians. There’s either too much for some and not enough for others– there’s no in between. There probably is a small sliver in the middle, but it’s a very broad circle where you hit the sweet spot for very few people.

“Calgary: City Of Parks & Pathways” mentions many amenities that make Calgary unique (and sweet): we have the most extensive urban pathway system in North America, largest elevated walkway system (+15), and two of the largest city parks in the world (Fish Creek and Nose Hill), to name a few. We also have Millennium Park, which is one of the largest skateparks in the world. Do you think Millennium is “safe”? There is a lot of development planned around Millennium so we’re wondering if Millennium will be taken out to free up the prime real estate on which it sits. This question is especially top of mind with the skatepark network plan that sees skateparks being developed in suburban areas.

There are two sides to Millennium Park. If the West Village gets developed, they’re going to want to develop the green space in the park. The City doesn’t have a track record of selling park space, so they would have to determine if there was a bigger, better use for the space. I would think that, as more people move into the area, there would be more reason to use the skatepark. I could see a playground going there too but I can see the skatepark as an attraction. The beach volleyball courts too. I don’t know for sure but I would think that the entire park becomes part of the West Village.
If I were in your shoes, I would start to look at what could be done to revitalize Millennium Park. I would certainly look at a signature event for it. Any major space has a significant event: Prince’s Island has the Folk Festival, Fort Calgary has music concerts. Millennium Park has the Blues Festival and a few others, but I do think that a skateboard festival of some sort coming together there would help to cement its sense of place. 2019 would be its 20th anniversary so you might want to think about how you could celebrate that.
Good public spaces have somebody that gives them ownership.

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Millennium Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnapore Skate Spot Opening Soon

UPDATE: Midnapore Skate Spot is opening soon! City officials have told us the park is not quite ready to open yet. It’s located behind the Mid Sun Community Centre and Midnapore School, at the corner of Midlake Blvd SE and Midpark Rise SE. Get some at the newest skatepark in Calgary! Photos courtesy of Mid Sun Community Association.

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