“So I asked for a skateboard for Christmas, and that was it,” said Barnum, one of Canada’s most recognized skatepark designers with Spectrum Skatepark Creations in North Vancouver.
Barnum was in Liverpool for the Queens County Skatepark Association’s community meeting at Queens Place Emera Centre Nov. 24. Chad Haughn, recreation and parks director for the Municipality of Chester, was also at the meeting to discuss Chester’s skatepark and the benefits it’s brought to the community. About 30 people attended.
So far Barnum has been helping the association through its early phases of skatepark planning by providing guidance and answering questions.
“I started this company (Spectrum) 13 years ago, and I started in much the same way that these guys are doing it today,” said Barnum.
“I was just volunteering for my community. I was part of the skatepark committee.”
Thirteen years after approaching Whistler, B.C.’s council to request support for a skatepark, Barnum and his team have designed 130 skateparks and won more than 20 awards, most recently from the International Olympic Committee, he said.
“I think any community that has youth in it needs a skatepark. I think any community that has skateboarders in it definitely needs a skatepark,” he said.
Barnum said he thinks people’s skepticism surrounding skateparks lies in the unknown. He says the reasons for failed skateparks, among others, are location, design and lack of user involvement.
Chester’s skatepark started when a group of students went to a youth conference and were assigned the challenge of thinking of something negative in their community or school that could become positive.
“So at the Chester Area Middle School, there was this clump of woods between the school and the highway, and there was a lot of not-so-good activities happening there during school, after school,” says Haughn.
That area is where Chester’s skatepark now sits, and Haughn says it is often busy.
Haughn talked about the importance of developing a good relationship with RCMP officers and said that’s what the committee wanted from day one.
Skateboarding isn’t all that happens at Chester’s park. There are almost an equal number of people who use BMX bikes, said Haughn. The park accommodates a number of users.
Haughn said the recreation department didn’t want to do a lot of scheduled programming but decided to do some. He said there are at least one skateboarding and one BMX competition each summer.
Despite the fact Chester’s skatepark was a relatively “easy sell,” Haughn said there were definitely those who were uncertain or against the idea.
“One of the biggest things was money,” he said. “‘Why are you spending so much money for the three or four kids who are going to use it? I cannot believe that you’re making that decision.’”
Councillors heard those questions, said Haughn.
When the park opened, he said, it was packed with children. Haughn said members of the public who initially complained about the investment came back and said they were wrong.
Social, recreational, health and financial benefits were some of the things Barnum talked about with respect to why communities should have skateparks.
“Skateparks are becoming more of a community place where it’s not just for the skateboarders,” he said.
Skateparks allow people who are unfamiliar with skateboarding to be able to see and begin to understand the sport, he added.
Barnum showed the audience a number of skatepark designs from around the country and beyond. Some of the parks had basketball courts and / or play structures nearby. Some had letters of a community’s name as part of the design. He displayed skateparks filled with green space and benches for spectators.
“The skateboarders in your community are going to be fundraising. They’re going to be making presentations to council. They’re going to be doing who knows what,” said Barnum, talking about the skills teens will develop through such a project.
Ian Kent, one of the members of the Queens County Skatepark Association, was pleased with the turnout to an evening fundraiser at Lane’s Privateer Inn Nov. 24.
About 70 people attended the event, and the association raised $15,000 through various contributions.
An art auction was, “super successful,” said Kent. The association got four skateboard decks from Homegrown Skateboards and four artists designed the decks. Artists included Demitrious Apessos, Kristen Gunn, Garren Surette and Sally Oliver.
One deck went for $475 and the rest auctioned for more than $150, said Kent. The Queens County Skatepark Association would like to have another fundraiser at the end of January.
For more information about the association, see their Facebook page