Why doesn’t Calgary have more skateparks? Edmonton is a smaller city and they have a bunch of good parks.
This is a common question for most Calgary skateboarders. While there is no “official” answer, we’ll take a stab at answering it:
When Millennium Park was completed in 2000, it was the biggest in the world. Calgary was smaller than it currently is, population-wise. The prevailing view toward skateboarding was, “we gave you the biggest park in the world so that should keep you happy.”
Although Millennium has its shortfalls, it did keep us skaters happy for a while. And maybe the fact that we had the biggest park created a view in our minds that we shouldn’t ask for more.
Fast forward a decade or so and skatepark development has come a long way. There are professional companies made up of landscape architects, engineers, and expert concrete finishers who design and build world class skateparks with carefully developed techniques. Calgary’s population has also grown about 30%.
Skateparks being built these days are better than they have ever been. Some of the recent parks built in Edmonton demonstrate that. Edmonton has nearly ten skateparks within the metro area and there is talk of more.
It’s mostly been the community associations who have driven the Edmonton skatepark projects. That means that an area’s residents have an association which help promote well-being and a sense of community. You should be able to find yours here. We strongly encourage you to join or contact your local community association and let them know that a skatepark is needed in your area.
Generally an idea like a skatepark (or playground, hockey rink, etc) gets started at the community level. Someone brings that idea to a monthly community association meeting where it may be voted on. If enough members/residents think it’s a good idea, they will contact their ward alderman (find yours here). After that, the alderman presents the idea to council where it is voted on, funds are earmarked, etc.
The city of Edmonton has been better at getting things done at a community level. And what happens with this type of thing is that when one community does it, the others see what they accomplished and want to do the same– a snowball effect is created. That’s exactly what went on in Edmonton.
As far as progress toward getting more parks built, yes we have made some. We have been in talks with a couple of community associations. We’ve given them information and done presentations. We speak with alderman and City staff. They know we exist and that we need more skateparks. We worked on the Skateboard Amenities Strategy which has set a framework for many parks. There are two rec centres in the works that have skateparks in the plans.
We need help from everyone to get more parks. As mentioned above, contact your community association and alderman. Use Facebook, Twitter, e-mail– whatever you can to get the word out.
Talia Kaufman is a friend of CASE. She’s currently in Cambodia working with Skateistan as their Communications Officer. We chatted with her about her time with the international non-profit charity.
Hi Talia, I understand you’re living in Cambodia, teaching skateboarding with Skateistan. Can you tell us a bit more about what Skateistan is and what you do?
Skateistan is a non profit that gives opportunities to young people ages 5-17 to be active and creative, and develop life skills through skateboarding. So far it has programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Pakistan. Our students spend half the time skateboarding and half the time following an arts, dance and music based curriculum. My role here is to help teach skating, engage girls with the skating, develop curriculum with my co-worker Alix, as well as handle anything media-related.
So is it a regular school as well as a skateboard school?
It’s a school in that we have classes, teachers, a facility, and a curriculum that we follow. Students come for two hours once a week, usually as part of a pre-existing program they are enrolled in.
In Kabul, where the program has been running for several years already, there is program called “Back to School,” which focuses on students who are not in regular school or who have dropped out. The goal of the program is to prepare these students for regular schooling, eventually helping them pass the entrance exams and enroll back into school. In Phnom Penh our programs are focused on physical activity, music and art, and other learning areas the students might miss out on in their regular school programming.
Where does the funding come from?
The Norwegian and Danish Embassies, and the German Federal Foreign Office are the major funders for Skateistan as a whole.
There are also several Skateistan fundraising entities around the world, which do a ton of work to support us. We are also working on becoming more sustainable through other fundraising methods such as our newly released book, a full-length documentary, and a number of co-branded skateboarding products as well.
Cambodia is the second country that Skateistan has set up in; from what you know about the Afghanistan operation, how do you think what you’re doing is different?
The program in Cambodia is still very new, we acquired a space to build the park and hold classes just a few months ago, so we’re at a different phase of the project than in Afghanistan, which is over four years old. There are so many places a program like this could apply, but it would always look a little different to fit the unique needs of each community.
Are there any dangers? A recent story about a suicide bombing which killed four Skateistan students in Afghanistan made international news. Any dangers like that in Cambodia (land mines, etc)?
Landmines are a huge issue in Cambodia, in rural areas and some towns, in parts of the country, but I don’t feel the two things can be compared at all. Youth in Cambodia do face dangers in their day to day lives, in terms of their health and other dangers that come with living in poverty, such as working in the streets. Girls in particular might have to deal with violence or the risk or reality of being trafficked into the sex trade.
One of your friends and another Calgary skateboarder, Rhianon Bader is working with Skateistan also. Do you compare notes as you have a similar position to hers?
I’m so stoked to get to work with Rhianon. She went on vacation shortly after I started but I’m really looking forward to it.
Is it even possible to skate in Cambodia? The first thing that comes to mind for some people when they think about that country is “jungles”.
The streets are really busy, just full of motorcycles, food vendors, lots of traffic, and there aren’t really sidewalks in most areas. People are really using the space efficiently. You see that in the way the kids skate the park too. Their sense of personal space is a lot smaller than in Calgary, they cut each other off or bump into each other often, but they don’t really seem to mind, it doesn’t throw them off. I haven’t braved many streets on my board yet, but I’m excited to.
Is it strange for Cambodians seeing people skateboarding? What are some of the reactions from the locals?
We get a lot of smiles. Most people have never seen a board before, but a lot want to try it out. People are really curious about it.
What kind of park obstacles do the Skateistan locals like? Are they more into ledges/technical skating or transition?
The kids here love transition…they learn to drop in on the six foot quarter, and have their rock to fakies sorted out well before they’re ollieing.
It’s no secret that Skateistan has had a huge impact with females. Since skateboarding is a male-dominated activity, why have these females in other parts of the world been drawn to skateboarding?
Maybe one reason is that Skateistan has the chance to introduce girls to skateboarding at any age, in a really inviting way. A lot of the kids we reach are really young, and whether they’re boys or girls, at that age they’re pretty fearless and they get excited about everything. But Skateistan does make a huge point of including girls, and other people who are marginalized too.
On that note, you yourself were drawn to skateboarding. What got you into skateboarding?
It was actually Rhianon that got me started and taught me how to ollie and stuff. After that we just made tons of friends who skated. It was fun, a good way to explore the city when you’re just gaining those adolescent freedoms. Looking back I think it made me feel like I belonged places, like the city belonged to us as much as anyone.
Any specific fond memories of skateboarding in Calgary?
Before Millenium opened, and a bit after too, we used to go skate street downtown at James Short, the CBE, Olympic Plaza, Eau Claire, etc. every day after school. We’d go any time of year, as long as it was dry. I have pretty fond memories of those days.
Would you say that skateboarding has helped you?
Oh yeah, in so many ways. It’s really challenging and I’ve had my share of injuries, but I feel like whatever I’ve put into skateboarding, I’ve gotten back ten-fold.
How long do you plan on staying in Cambodia?
My contract here is for six months, so after that I’ll do a little traveling in the area then head back home to my pals in Calgary.
As you know, Calgary is lagging way behind other Canadian cities and towns when it comes to skateparks. As someone who has experienced many other countries, what would you say to us Calgary skaters who complain about our lack of places to skate?
It could be better for sure, but limitations and constraints can force you to find new places to skate. Go do a little D.I.Y project, build a ramp, drive to a part of the city you never go to and see what’s there – Calgary’s huge! Also, Calgary is very dry, that’s a bonus I’ve taken for granted.
Here’s a video showing on TelusTV, letting you know what CASE is up to these days. We’ll be needing lots of help in coming months with some upcoming developments. Be sure you and all of your friends that skate join CASE so we can count on you to help make more skateparks in Calgary a reality!!
Our friends in the Medicine Hat Skateboard Association and Edmonton Skateboard Association sent us this video of them helping build a home for a family in Mexico. It’s inspirational that these guys took the time and effort to do something positive like this. Steve Berra and Chad TimTim make appearances as well.
We need you to join us for about an hour to help the future of skateboarding in Calgary. Tonight we’ll be electing our board for the next year– if you’re registered on this website then you’re eligible to vote and run for a board position.
The city is serious about implementing the Skateboard Amenities Strategy and we’re confident that new skateparks are imminent. The CASE board will play an important role in steering the city in the right direction.
If you want to see skateboarding in Calgary move to the next level, now is the time to let your voice be heard.
7 PM, Wednesday May 2
Eau Claire Market
200 Barclay Parade SW
Notice of Annual General Meeting
7 PM, Wednesday May 2
Eau Claire Market
200 Barclay Parade SW
Every year CASE invites all of our members as well as everyone else in the Calgary skateboarding community and those who support skateboarding, to our Annual General Meeting (AGM). Our AGM is an opportunity for CASE to share what we have accomplished, what we are working on, and what we have planned. It will also be a chance for us to answer your questions, and hear your ideas and suggestions about what we can do for skateboarding in Calgary. If you want to get involved in any of CASE’s efforts, you can check into that opportunity as well as CASE needs more people to contribute, a little or a lot, to help push skateboarding forward in Calgary
We are making progress towards getting more skateparks in Calgary, and in making our city a more skate friendly place. The progress is not as quick as we’d all like, but the progress is definite. We’re making a difference for Calgary skateboarders and we hope you can make in on May 2nd so you can hear about developments first hand!
If you have questions, comments, or need more information before the meeting click “Contact” in the menu bar.
See YOU May 2nd!