Calgary has made strides in many areas over the last decade, including in social policy, and is now catering to yet another demographic – skateboarders who are often labeled as a subculture.
Up until the end of summer, there was only one permanent skatepark catering to roughly 35,000 skateboarders in Calgary. Tensions have run high for years with an “us versus them” mentality.
Skateboarding is permitted on most sidewalks or boulevards, but Calgary is one of the few cities in Canada to maintain a “Central Traffic Zone,” bordered to the north by the Bow River, the east at 4th Street East, the south by 9th Avenue South and the west by 9th Street West. Penalties for skateboarding in that area include fines and confiscation of skateboards.
However, things are changing.
On Sept. 20, Calgary opened the first of a proposed seven new skateparks in the city at the corner of Elbow Drive and 73rd Avenue SW, as part of the “Skateboard Amenities Strategy,” which was created to gauge different neighbourhoods’ interest in a network of skateparks and to explain why the parks are needed.
“With these parks, we are looking to address the difference between the number of parks that are within the city and the number of participants,” said Tom Hansen, of the Calgary recreation department.
“These parks are slated to be places where not only users of the facilities can go, but also families and anybody else looking to participate in some way.”
Skateboarders are only one of multiple groups the parks are intended for. The others consist of BMX riders, inline roller skaters and scooters, which brings the total of wheeled participants up to approximately 50,000.
The Sept. 20 opening included the adjoining neighbourhoods of Chinook Park, Kelvin Grove and Eagle Ridge, earning the acronym CKE. Other proposed skatepark sites include Bowness, Deer Run, Huntington Hills, Midnapore, New Brighton and Southwood.
The only other permanent park the city is Shaw Millenium Park, located downtown.
“Millenium is an alright spot,” said Abe Kelly, a 24-year-old skateboarder, “but it’s dated, and it’s pretty easy to tell it wasn’t designed by skaters. There’s a lot of dead space, and it gets really busy.”
The Calgary Association of Skateboard Enthusiasts (CASE) can be credited with advancing skateboarder issues in recent years. The largest hurdle facing the development of parks has been getting communities on board with the construction and long-term use of these facilities.
“I think it’s a great project, but a few people are having a hard time getting behind it,” Kelvin Grove resident Dana Little said. “I think it’s because of the whole idea of the subculture and what that could bring to our neighborhoods.”
I think it’s because of the whole idea of the subculture and what that could bring to our neighborhoods. – Dana Little, Kelvin Grove resident
Regardless of the perceived subculture stigma, many residents remain optimistic, and are willing to give the projects their backing.
“It’s only a matter of time before the benefits will outshine the negatives,” Kelly said.