was in the middle of a scene Sunday that should make our city councillors hang their heads in shame.
It was a beautiful spring day in Kaslo. The snowcapped Mount Loki looming over the idyllic Kootenay Lake town. The place was crawling with folks from near and far for the community’s annual May Days.
The Hall Clan made the journey up the lake to take in all the Sunday festivities — logger sports, the car show, music in the park, the atmosphere. But the big lure this year was found at the Kaslo outdoor skatepark. There was a demonstration of skills by the Kootenay-based Black Russian skateboard team and my 11-year-old son (and his skateboard enthusiast dad) wanted to check it out.
The Kaslo skatepark has to be one of the best in B.C. Hec, it may be one of the best in the country.
It’s nestled in the city’s main park. It’s not huge — just the right size for a small community — but it’s location is awesome. You can throw a rock into Kootenay Lake from the area where kids risk elbow and shin to do their thing.
Along with the show by the pros on Sunday, there was a skateboard competition open to all ages and abilities. The place was packed.
When the Black Russian team took to the concrete skateground, my son and I watched Nelson-based professional skateboarder Josh Evin in awe as launched off many of the features of the park.
For those who don’t know Evin, he’s a Valley boy made good. He has risen to the top of the skateboard world — a very lofty accomplishment.
What’s most impressive about Evin, is that he’s a good guy. An ambassador for a sport too often painted with a negative brush. He’s nearing 30 in a sport custom fit for the courage of the younger set, but Evin can rip it up with the best. His kindness with the kids makes him an excellent role model for those wanting skateboarding to be a positive part of their lives.
Anybody who took in the demonstration Sunday had to be impressed with Evin and his band of a half-dozen up-and-coming area youngsters on the Black Russian team.
It was an uplifting scene to see all the energy. It was also very encouraging to stand there elbow-to-elbow with people of all ages, many who may not have seen these athletes in action before. I’m sure they left with a totally new outlook on the sport.
As we walked down the road to the logger sport stadium, my mood quickly soured. I couldn’t help but think about my own backyard and how pathetic it was that we didn’t have a venue to show off this type of talent.
The push for an outdoor skatepark in Nelson has been going on for almost a decade. The biggest hurdle has been council’s unwillingness to embrace the project with anything more than lip service. It’s upsetting because it’s so blatantly disrespectful to the young people of this community.
The different characters who have been worked towards getting this facility built have been many. They’ve ranged from the kids who will skate the park to former Facility Planning Commission chair Tom Hierck who hasn’t been on a board for a couple decades. Most of the advocates have eventually had their enthusiasm sucked dry by council’s lack of courage to get the job done.
There have been several locations suggested. Over and over again, the NIMBYs have gotten all worked up and council has caved. Afraid to do right by the youth. Choosing the uneducated and fearful over the future.
In the late-1990s there was a dire need for more fields to accommodate soccer. Then-mayor Gary Exner and the Nelson Regional Sports Council, made it a priority. In a hugely controversial move, the Exner-led council of the day pumped $1 million of Columbia Basin Trust community funding into filling the hole in the middle of the waterfront pathway. There was anger from those who preferred to think a little longer about where that envelope of money should be spent, but council took action knowing it was best for the entire community. Today those fields are vital to our young people and to our economy. It took courage, but it was the right move.
Skateboarders are not youth soccer players. There are not as many of them and they don’t have the same clean-cut image as the kids who chase a ball around the pitch.
But there is image, and then there is reality.
I knew a couple of the kids who took part in the Kaslo amateur competition on Sunday. One was a kid who has had a lead role in the Capitol Theatre summer production a couple years ago. Like the soccer moms and dads, his parents are fully supportive of his passion and drive him from venue to venue around the Kootenays to quench his thirst. The other kid was one of my son’s buddies. He plays hockey and baseball like many of his other peers. But he also likes to skateboard.
Neither of these kids are what those who haven’t been around the sport would expect to see at a skatepark. That’s the point. Throw out your image of bad-ass, pot smoking, hooligans. They may be a small part of the mix, but other youth sports are not immune from those types of characters either. It’s unfair to brand a sport based on a few of the punks.
The picture you should have in your head is of kids pursuing their passion. Their love is for big air and challenges. To pull off some of the tricks and carve the way these kids do, well, it’s nothing less than impressive.
We have built a multi-million dollar facility for hockey players and figure skaters. We have thrown millions into the creation and maintenance of fields for soccer players and baseball lovers. We have told those who love the fury of four small wheels they don’t matter. They are not good enough to get any real consideration.
I know what councillors past and present are saying right now — we have worked to find solutions. Bull. You have done the minimum and lacked the courage to really make it happen. We’re not interested in your excuses anymore.
We wonder why young people are cynical when it comes to the adult world. When you look at the way council has treated this group of youth, it’s pretty obvious why.
It’s time to stop the excuses and foot dragging. It’s time for action. The seven people who sit at the council table are trusted to make our community a better place to live — for all of us. It starts with Mayor John Dooley, who must take charge of this issue to ensure it happens — quickly. The outdoor skatepark is a nagging failure in the mandate of past councils, let’s hope that’s not the case with this current one.
Now is the time for an outdoor skatepark, the kids have waited long enough.
Bob Hall is the managing editor at the Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.