In late 2004, there was a public meeting held in Saugeen Shores which formed a committee of local youth and parents who were interested in helping bring a skate park to this community.  Since then, the committee has been working hard towards making the skate park a reality for this community.


            I’m sure a lot of people ask, “Why Skateboarding?”  Skateboarding is not a new sport, it has over 50 years of history.  Through that time it has had several peaks and valleys in popularity.  Early recessions in the sport are largely the result of poor equipment.  Today, however, good quality equipment is available and very affordable.  Many professional skateboarders have moved on to running their own skateboard manufacturing companies, which keeps the industry very dynamic in order to maintain a competitive edge.  Skateboarding is a 1.2 billion dollar a year industry in North America.  It is enjoyed by over 15 million people in North America and the second fastest growing sport in Canada.


            Why is it so popular?  It is an individual sport that can be enjoyed almost anywhere and anytime.  A skateboard and helmet can be purchased for less than $60 which makes it a very affordable sport.  It can be practiced on almost any smooth, hard surface, for as long as the skateboarder wants.  There is no requirement for team or association memberships and no facility rentals like an ice arena or gymnasium.  It doesn’t have to be competitive so each skateboarder participates at their own skill level.


            You’re probably wondering, if it can be done anywhere, why do we need to build a skate park?  Skateboarding is a relatively safe sport.  The safety of the sport has been drastically improved with the development of better equipment and better use of helmets and padding.  In comparison, a skateboarder is 6 times less likely to receive an injury that requires hospital treatment than a hockey player.  In fact, U.S. hospital visit statistics show that a youth is more likely to require medical treatment from fishing than skateboarding.  Despite this, most injuries caused to skateboarders result from irregular riding surfaces and debris on the surface.  It would therefore stand to reason that if skateboarders were provided with a smooth surface, specifically designed for skateboarding, the chance of injury would decrease even further.


            As well as providing a safe place to skateboard, a skate park opens the door for skateboarders to develop their skills to a professional level.  There are currently over 60 skate parks in Ontario and approximately 30 more in various stages of design and construction.  Ontario hosts the Muskoka Woods skateboarding series which holds competitions in 7 communities.  We are hoping to become #8 in the series once the park is completed.  The winners of this earn a position in the Canadian Open which is held annually in Toronto and attracts professional skateboarders from around the world.  There is also the Slam City Jam in Vancouver and the better known competitions such as the X Games and Gravity Games which attract more viewers than the Super Bowl.  Consideration is being given to including skateboarding as an Olympic event as early as the 2008 games.  Although it has not been confirmed, China is currently building the largest skate park in the world.


            Skate parks are not just a place for skateboarders to hang out.  They are a sports facility used for recreation and socialization.  They are a place to practice and compete.  They are used by skateboarders, roller blades, and BMX bikes.  If properly designed, they are a community park that is inviting to the entire family.


            Skate parks can be constructed in several different ways.  Portable ramps can be used.  They are generally constructed of wood or composite material.  Unfortunately they can only be expected to last about 4 years before they break down and become unusable.  Modular ramps also have a short life span and are usually used for indoor parks and competitions. 


We are proposing to build a concrete park which will have a very long life expectancy.  Several parks which were built in the 1960’s are still in use today in Canada.  Another advantage of a concrete park is that there is very little maintenance.  Once the initial expense is overcome the upkeep is very minimal.  The committee is determined to build a concrete park of approximately 14,000 square feet and at a cost of approximately $350,000.  We have chosen New Line Skateparks, a Vancouver based company with over 100 skate parks built as our designer.  We have been working closely with New Line and are looking forward to meeting with them later this month.


We have a number of goals to achieve in designing and building this park.  We wanted to make the park large enough to meet the current and future needs of this community.  The park has to be free to use.  It has to be challenging enough for all skill levels from beginner to expert.  We want to provide a safe place for the kids to skate without the hazards of vehicle or pedestrian traffic.  We want to give the youth a place where they can go to practice their sport without the worry of being told to go somewhere else.


In addition to the skate park, the committee intends to complete the park by raising money to build other facilities.  We would like to add a concession and washroom facilities.  This would benefit the park by enabling us to hold competitions.  We would also like to add a play structure for younger children.  This would help promote the facility as a park for the entire family.  As well we will be incorporating benches, trees, and green spaces to enhance the look and feel of the park.


Once construction of the park is complete, we do not intend to dissolve the committee.  We plan to continue with events and programs such as summer camps, to teach proper and safe skateboarding techniques and etiquette, skateboarding competitions, and continued fundraising to maintain and expand the park and to give back to the community for the support we are receiving during this phase.


Council has approved our chosen location for the park behind the police station.  We chose this location as it is easily accessible from the rail trail, it is close to other recreational facilities such as the BMX track, and it is not in a residential area where neighbors could be disturbed by the noise.  We also feel this is a great location as it will have 24 hour supervision from the police officers going in and out of the station.


Our goal is to begin construction of the park in the summer of 2006.  In order to achieve the financial goal, we have pledged to raise $25,000 as a committee.  In the past 5 months the committee has raised over $18,000 through fundraising and donations and we have several fundraising activities underway which should easily exceed this goal before the end of our fiscal year.  We will continue to fundraise until we have achieved our goal and the park is built.


             We have also requested council make budget consideration of $75,000 toward construction of the park.  At their last meeting, council has given their approval of this request and will be giving it consideration during budget preparation.


            We will be making several grant applications to assist with funding the park.  We are looking to apply to the Trillium Foundation in March of 2006 and are considering several other provincial and federal grants.


            We will be beginning a corporate sponsorship campaign early in the new year to solicit the support of the larger businesses in the area.  As well we intend to approach all of the local service groups and the Chamber of Commerce to seek the support of the local business community.  You may ask yourselves, why would businesses want to get involved with this project.  The obvious answer is that it is an investment into the youth of our community.  It promotes a healthy recreational activity as a deterrent to mischievous acts or involvement with drugs or alcohol.  But there is also another answer to that question. 


            Skate parks have an enormous draw to youth from surrounding communities.  Most parks are full to capacity on weekends and very busy outside of school hours.  What this means to local business is that parents will be bringing their children to the park.  Parents of teenagers are likely to use this opportunity to do their shopping.  They will buy their groceries, fill their gas tanks, or just brows the businesses along the main street.  They may stay for lunch or dinner at a local restaurant.  There will be a noticeable increase in visitors to this community when the park is complete.  This became very evident in the small community of Madoc, a town of only 1,200 people, who built a 13,000 square foot park which was completed this past summer.  Since its completion, they have had three new business open and can attribute at least two new families to the community because of the skate park.  With the upcoming expansion to Bruce Power, there will be hundreds of new jobs opening up and families moving to this area.  A family who is deciding whether to buy or build a home in either Port Elgin or Kincardine may be swayed by the superior recreational facilities offered in Saugeen Shores.


            Skate parks also attract tourists.  Many families plan their vacations to visit skate parks and travel great distances to see a park that is well designed.  Port Elgin has experienced this with the BMX track that frequently attracts visitors from the Toronto area who spend hours riding it.  Several families visited Port Elgin two or three times this summer because they wanted to come back to ride the track.  In comparison, there are only four BMX tracks in Ontario and over 60 skate parks.  Despite the number of skate parks, there are none of the caliber we are building between here and Mississauga or Barrie.  This park will be an attraction for skateboarders within a several hour radius as well as for tourists coming from the Golden Horseshoe area.


            The Saugeen Shores Skate Park Committee is currently making presentations to local service groups to seek their support.  We will also be asking for the support of the Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Saugeen Shores, and others who have an interest in this community project.  We have learned that collaborative applications to the Trillium Foundation have been very successful and we are hoping to receive the maximum amount available.


            In appreciation of support for the park, the committee is investigating various means of permanent recognition features within the park.  We are considering embossed concrete emblems, plaques, engraved marble, and signs, depending on the amount donated.  We will also be building a billboard on the highway as near to the park as possible which will have the logos of our all our major sponsors.  Our web site also recognizes all of the businesses that have supported us this year.


            In conclusion, we urge all residents and business owners in this community to support the skate park committee.  The building of this park will benefit our youth, businesses, and our community.


Get On Board!!!