A resident’s comments.
Last week I presented to the Community and Social Services committee as an advocate for the skatepark and the Silvercreek Park site. At that time, I opened by thanking the councillors and staff for moving forward with this project, as it is greatly needed and long overdue in our city. I’d like to extend that thank you to all of you at this time. There has been so much positive movement and momentum behind this project over the past two years and I applaud you all for listening to the voice of youth in this community and transforming it into a space that will benefit not only skateboarders, but the community as a whole.
I do, however, feel compelled to respond to some comments made by another presenter at the Community and Social Services Committee. The delegate, HW, suggested that this project must be paused as there had been no public consultation on the skatepark or the site, and further, that skateboarders should be responsible for raising the funds for this project themselves.
With regards to the lack of consultation, I’d like to share my experiences as a member of the Working Group tasked with selecting the site for the skatepark. This group – comprised not only of skateboarders, but also, and by a significant majority, community members at large (including teachers, parents, and even a retired police chief) – worked devotedly for almost two years evaluating sites. This process included discussions ranging from accessibility, safety, marginalization, costs, and community inclusion. At the end of this process, a list of over 20 sites was narrowed down to 4, with Silvercreek Park proving far and away the most popular choice in every category. Moreover, I attended all 3 public information sessions held by the City where again, not only skateboarders, but members of the broader community, turned out to provide their thoughts and insight – both positive and negative – on both the design and the site. It has been almost 4 years since I attended the first Skatepark Working Group meeting, and over that time I have seen numerous of people donate their precious time to ensure the thoughts of the community were included in this project.
In terms of the need for skateboarders to raise the funds for the skatepark themselves, I can only say that I have always viewed Guelph as a city that celebrates youth and culture, and I can think of no quicker way to undo this celebration than to put up a barrier of this magnitude. As a taxpayer and a life-long resident of Guelph, I feel that we should be investing in youth, making them feel a valued part of the community, not attaching strings and conditions to their sense of value and belonging.
I apologize for the length of this email, but as I mentioned as a delegate to council in 2011 and to the Community and Social Services Committee last week, a skatepark has been highlighted as a priority by Guelph youth for over 30 years. Tonight’s council meeting is an opportunity to continue the forward progression of this long overdue project. I can only hope that my experiences as a Guelphite and as a Working Group Member can help you see the immense value of the project to the Guelph community. EP