By Kathryn McGrath and Kathy Rowe
Wear and tear is showing on the Crossroads Skatepark at the Port Union Community Centre. That’s not surprising since the facility is now 20 years old. Early in May, the CCRA skatepark subcommittee met with committed skaters and interested onlookers to witness the aging of the well-used facility.
Councillor Jennifer McKelvie along with two supervisors from the City Parks Department walked through the park while we noted the areas where cracks and missing chunks of concrete were found. Evidence of water pooling was also noted.
The damage at this park presents hazards to skateboarders and BMX bike riders alike. Paul Brown, general supervisor for Parks Operations and Technical Services, stated that the city’s maintenance budget could be used to make the necessary repairs. He also added that there are other parks in the city with more pressing needs, so our park might have to wait.
Brandon Kirkup, a landscape architect, told us that there are new resurfacing products for concrete that can make the ramps safer for boarders. The challenge would be to keep the graffiti artists away. The paint they use can create a very slippery and dangerous surface for users. Discussion quickly moved from repairs to redesign of the skatepark.
Skateboarders complained about the lack of good lighting in the evenings, which makes skating dangerous. Paul Brown noted that new light poles would be costly. As well, police often discourage bright night lighting because of the impact it has on neighbouring homes.
Another observation was that this skatepark was not designed for beginner skaters in mind. It also wasn’t designed as a mixed-use skatepark (BMX bikers and skaters together).
Andrew Abate, a resident who grew up skateboarding at this park, feels strongly about making the necessary repairs as soon as possible. Andrew would also love to see design improvements and a possible expansion of the park.
Brandon Kirkup came up with a hybrid option in terms of repairs and improvements. He suggested removing the bulky square and stairs in the middle area and extending the park a bit to the west to allow a more gradual flow of the concrete.
Unfortunately, cost is currently a big barrier. Councillor McKelvie stated that the park is not in line for major city funding in the foreseeable future. The cost to rebuild the skatepark would be well over $1 million, she said. Corporate funding in partnership with the city is something that needs to be explored.
Park users assured us that skaters and bikers are using the park every day. It’s an important meeting place for youth in this area. The Toronto Star recently reported that since the start of the pandemic, eating disorders among kids 10-17 is very high. This is the age group that would be using the skatepark. Not having safe places for kids to gather and de-stress creates its own set of mental health issues.
Our committee will continue to discuss skatepark improvements. Meanwhile we await the city’s word on repairs to the concrete.