Hay River will be up one BMX/skate park in the coming months, though it will be temporary with a permanent facility to follow next year.
“Right now, lots of kids are street riding and going on people’s property,” said Louise Schumann, a representative for the soon-to-be-formalized Hay River BMX Skate Park Association. “We’re never going to cut it all out, but we want to give them a place to go that is safe, where they can just go and be kids.”
In 2010, the Town of Hay River purchased about $20,000 worth of modular moveable equipment for BMX riders and skateboarders. Temporary locations in the curling rink and Kiwanis Park were not conducive to all related activities and the association and the town are now working together to find a suitable alternative.
The location options on the table are behind the Hay River Community Youth Centre, where there is already some equipment; in the parking lot of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre; and in the 553 neighbourhood.
Schumann reported the association is not keen on the last of these options as it feels the site is too out of the way and difficult to observe, but that both the youth centre and recreation centre locations would be more appealing.
“It really depends on the space each can offer,” she explained. “Behind the youth centre is tight, but the recreation centre location depends on how much room they want to give.”
Not only would more space make it easier to fit all the modular equipment, it would reduce the risk of accidents if and when the temporary park became crowded with users.
Schumann estimates there are at least 50 regular users of skate park facilities in Hay River, though she said her list is by no means exhaustive.
“We’ve submitted the papers to become a formalized association in the near future, so that will be a big step,” she said. “It’s not just those 50 users, it’s their parents and some of the older kids, too, who want to get involved and make this happen.”
But wherever town council and the association decide to put the equipment for the summer, it will remain a temporary fix until a permanent structure can be built. The lot behind Fields store and NWT Centennial Library has been marked for this purpose, but work has yet to begin on the necessary adjustments.
“We’re working on getting started pretty quick,” said Schumann. “It won’t be ready for this season, but we’re hoping to have it open next summer.”
The town has budgeted $150,000 for the project and Schumann said the association is $2,000 away from its independent fundraising goal of $10,000. The new equipment – including ramps, bars and platforms – will cost about $100,000 alone and the association hopes to receive donations of time and labour to help offset the cost of the asphalt pad.
“People in this town have been very generous,” she said. “And we’re hoping they will continue to support us.”
Jordan Stackhouse, acting recreation director for the Town of Hay River, said the project should be completed by October 2014 at the latest.
“Recreation as a whole is extremely important to this community,” he said. “We’re comparatively pretty active.”
Stackhouse explained the former skate park located at Kiwanis Park proved problematic when engineers indicated no activity should take place there due to the presence of a reservoir underneath, but it had been very popular while open.
“There were between 20 and 30 kids there regularly every year,” he said. “And we’re obligated to support this sort of project, if at all possible.”
For Schumann, a mother to two active BMX riders, a skate park is different than normal town and school recreation projects.
“There are so many volunteers in this town who organize so many amazing sports and activities,” she said. “But this could be something we don’t have to organize. This could be a place for kids to go and be active and safe, but not being told what to do by adults 24 hours a day.”
— Sarah Ladik