RMWB council asks for review of skate park proposal pitched by Gregoire students

Council balked at costs of three skate park options presented to council and asked for a review of the proposal. Greely Road School students pitched the idea to council in March.

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After pitching a skate park to council last March, the children of Gregoire will have to wait longer before learning if the RMWB will build a place to skateboard, bike and roller blade in their neighbourhood.

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Council unanimously had administration to continue reviewing the project, including the size, design and costs of any park proposals. The motion was a response to a report presented Tuesday on three ideas for a park in the neighbourhood. But councillors balked at costs when they were presented with possible options at Tuesday’s meeting.

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  • Option 1 would cost $300,000 to build and $35,000 annually to operate. It included building a skate park on an existing ice rink. This option limits customization because of space and maintenance.
  • Option 2 cost $800,000 to build and $15,000 annually to operate. It included a modular skate park on a newly-built concrete pad. This option was described as flexible.
  • Option 3 would cost $1.5 million to build and $10,000 annually to operate. This would be a permanent skate park facility. Customization would be limited.

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Councillor Ken Ball proposed the amendment to have administration continue reviewing the project. He was open to a park in the area, but argued these options were too expensive based on his own background as the municipality’s parks department head.

Keith Smith, the RMWB’s public works director, said the price estimates are based on current levels of inflation and supply chain problems. It is too early to explore potential grants, he said.

“We’re comfortable with those numbers,” said Smith.

“I’m not comfortable with those numbers,” responded Ball. “I think maybe we need to go back to the drawing board to get real numbers, real users and how many we’re going to need to define a solid budget versus what I think is just a guess.”

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BMX riders with the Full Send Stunt Show at Rock The Rails in Fort McMurray on June 3, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Ball was also frustrated the public works department did not have any estimates about how many kids would use a Gregoire skate park compared to the other existing skate parks in Fort McMurray. He also had concerns about a skate park bringing “the wrong people and bringing those to a school site.”

Smith said the Fort McMurray Public School Division is supportive of the idea and proposed locations. He also said more than 500 people participated in an engagement on the park, and 70 per cent to 80 per cent of people said the park is needed and would be used.

“I do believe it would be used. But for me to say, at this point in time, and say it will be used by 30 children per day, I can’t predict that,” said Smith. “I just know from my own experience with the other skate parks, even though we don’t do those numbers they are heavily used.”

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Last March, the Grades 5 and 6 students of Greely Road School asked council to build a park in the neighbourhood. During an April visit to the school, the students told Fort McMurray Today that Gregoire needs more municipal investment for families and young people in the community.

All of the students said the roads and sidewalks are badly maintained, the paved spaces at existing parks are too small to ride, and the parks themselves are old. They added the existing skateparks are in other neighbourhoods. Not everyone has parents with vehicles or time to take them elsewhere. Public transit is slow, they added.

“The other communities have one. Why don’t we have one and they do?” said student Jesse MacLean in an interview last April. “It would help build community spirit. If you wanted to make friends then it would be a great spot because everybody will be going there.”

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