Town finally moves to review skatepark site

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But horseshoe club may pay a price

INNISFAIL – The town has agreed to review sites for the long-awaited new skatepark, a decision arising from past concerns of inadequate public engagement and the final choice being unfair to the long-established Innisfail Horseshoe Club.

But the town, which made its most recent council decision on Feb. 26, is quickly facing new concerns over an idea the best solution for horseshoe club members might be moving to another location.

“I really don’t like it. It doesn’t make sense to me to move us so that the facility (skatepark) can go in there when there are other places for it,” said Myrna Kissick, president of the horseshoe club, whose members have opposed the new skatepark site as it would “destroy” the adjoining green space and disrupt their tournaments. At council’s regular Feb. 26 meeting, a motion was approved to direct administration to revisit all potential skatepark site options, “with consideration of existing and future amenities.”

Mayor Jim Romane said while he acknowledges there was inadequate public input two years ago for the new skatepark site at the intersection of 42nd Street and 51st Avenue, he does favour the choice as the town spent considerable time and expense on engineering and surveying to make it work.

“I am not necessarily saying I agree with that site while leaving the horseshoe pits there. I think it is too cramped,” said Romane. “I am of the feeling if we don’t want to waste all the money that we have put into that design and location for the skateboard park then maybe we should be looking at relocating the horseshoe pits and find a nice location and one that is acceptable to them.

“That makes more sense to me than to try and cram everything into that location and have people on top of each other,” added the mayor.

In the meantime, council was also told through an administration report the timeline to begin and complete construction on a new skatepark, expected to cost up to $680,000, will have to be extended for at least one year.

With the town reviewing site locations, with the possibility of choosing another site, the town is also forced to take another look at its budget for the project, as it may have to spend more money to study each new possible location.

With that in mind, council also passed a second motion on Feb. 26 to direct administration to report on budget options, including opportunities for private and public funding sources.

“I need to pull this puzzle all together and see what it looks like and get this information back to council before we ask for additional funds. The question is do we require external consulting to help with this process, or can this be done internally?” said Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, adding he will be talking to New Line Skateparks, the company the town retained more than two years ago to create a design for the project. “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and I don’t have all the answers at this time.”

Both Becker and the mayor said the extended timeline now gives the town new opportunities to work with the community to develop better fundraising and planning opportunities for whatever site is ultimately chosen.

Becker said the town would look beyond just a location for a new skatepark facility with a site plan to determine what else is going on in that area, and not just one or two specific amenities.

“How is this all going to tie together for the future?” said Becker. “They (council) want to know what other development opportunities and what exists around that park where it is located and what is the development opportunity around that park to make it a public hub.

“Whatever the site they choose, what is the bigger picture or vision for that area, not just one amenity?” he added.

But for now members of the horseshoe club are planning a response to council from its most recent skatepark decisions, especially if elected officials opt to find the club a new home. Kissick said if they have to move there will be a list of demands, notably a clubhouse with power, which was never built at the current site.

“If they are going to move us they owe us that,” said Kissick, adding members strongly believe the community must be involved in the decision making process for the new skatepark site. “We don’t have anything there now and we’ve been there since 1987 and got along quite well where we are at, and like it there.

“It is handy, close, in a sports park, and we don’t have too much problem with parking,” she added. “Our courts are one of the best outdoor courts in Alberta, the way they are set up and looked after.”

Mayor Jim Romane

“I am of the feeling if we don’t want to waste all the money that we have put into that design and location for the skateboard park then maybe we should be looking at relocating the horseshoe pits and find a nice location and one that is acceptable to them.”

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Johnnie Bachusky

Johnnie Bachusky joined the Innisfail Province as editor in 2013. He covers Innisfail and Red Deer County news, police, crime and municipal politics. He is also a photographer and columnist.