September 14th, 2015 Executive Council Meeting Follow-up
So, Pickering is no closer to getting a new park than before the meeting but at the same time, we are no further either. Executive Council voted 5 to 2 to have Parks dept. form a skatepark strategy for the 2016 budget or ASAP.
Here's how the meeting went down.
6 other skaters who had found the poster were also in attendance.( Thanks for coming out guys & girl)
Myself and a friend had signed up to speak in council chambers as had 3 members of a group of approximately 12 seniors who oppose the location of the park.
All those in opposition began by saying that they had nothing against skateboarders.
The first gentleman gave a somewhat unprepared speech and commented on the state of the current Pickering skatepark, the lack of nets in the basketball hoops and the lack of youth currently using the Petticoat Creek community centre. He also presented a petition signed by 96 residents opposing the park.
I was next and delivered my speech with you can read HERE if you like. I was admittedly terrified but I made it through and then felt less that I was going to barf. Council proceeded to ask me about 5 questions which I felt comfortable answering.
After I returned to my seat, the first gentleman rose and asked to add something to his earlier speech. He was told he had used his 10 and could not.
The next speaker was the youngest of the opposition group. She had her own notes prepared but was also given an article the first gent had tried to add. She had not read it and stated it was a 2013 article stating skateboarding was on the decline. No source given (Edit - I've found the article. It's conveniently titled 'The Death of Skateboarding' on the website 'Love Extreme Sports'. It sites "a recent report" stating the popularity of skateboarding as a Google search term has decreased. The "source" is a blog, like mine, with 3 posts and the data is from Google Trends.)
My friend, Jay, spoke. When he gave his address as Whitby, old folks scoffed at him. Rude!
He was great and spoke to the benefits of skateboarding.
Another opposition speaker, who had some constructive points as to where other parks could go.
The last 'Pro' speaker is a Father who is tired of taking his 40mins away to scooter. He was 'no nonsense' and said he was not surprised by the opposition delegates. He was then heckled by the first guy. The Father then commented on the 2013 article saying that he doesn't believe it to be true but if it is, it is only due to an increase in BMX and scooter use. Again, he was interrupted by the opposition, who were told to be quiet and the Father was asked to only address the committee.
The Delegation session over, myself and the other skaters excused ourselves and met in the hall. I was approached by a reporter from the News Advertiser. She took my name and info for an interview later.
I returned to the chamber to await the vote.
Arnold Mostert, Sr. Coordinator; Land & Park Development, gave a presentation on how the site selection was made and how Petticoat Creek was chosen. The department wanted a location that is central but at the opposite end of the city from Princess Diana park.
Mayor Ryan and Councillor Ashe both questioned why the current park wasn't put on the assessment chart. It was revealed that there was a tender to improve (replace the mini ramp) the current park but due to its low value no bids were received. The new parks expanded budget would include not only the new skate spot but repairs to Princess Diana.
It was recommended by council there should be a reassessment, again, and it might be better to invest in a facelift of the old park rather than place a park in an area that doesn't want it.
Many of the councillors made reference to what I had said about the park being one of the worst 5 in Canada to mean it was unrideable. I felt it would be out of order to correct them: that’s why I kept notes.
Councillor Pickles stated he thought the skate spot is a good idea and repairs do not need to be in advance of the micro park.
Councillor McLean said he was amazed at how the youth interact and help each other. "We have to keep kids occupied. I think this is a good location." He also stated council should move forward with a park at Petticoat Creek or St. Mary’s.
The Mayor moved to have the Park dept. form a skatepark strategy by the 2016 budget or as soon as possible.
Voted 5 to 2 in favor.
I left chambers and met Arnold. I expressed interest in assisting any way possible and gave a copy of my speech and have since provided him with additional information. We were approached by the First Gentleman who said we looked “Buddy-buddy” and alleged there was a conspiracy to push the skatepark through without informing residents. I also met reporter Kristen Calis from the News Advertiser who said Committee Meetings don't usually get so feisty. I gave her a copy of my speech and she said she'd call for an interview later.
I’m glad I wasn’t alone in this but more support is always needed. Let me know if you want to help.