Further to Bill Jones press release (Jan 14, 2014), he omitted to mention to you that in the Community Consultation section of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan a skateboard park ranked 22 of 23 community priorities. If you ask him he will be able to send you a copy of that page too.
The skateboard park idea was proposed to Council last March during the discussions about the 2013 budget. The group proposing the project asked Council for $75,000 to cover the cost of an 80m square concrete pad (estimated at $25,000) and the balance for equipment. I strongly opposed giving them any money because they had not presented any evidence to Council that there was public support for the idea nor did they provide any evidence as to how many children might use it. At that budget meeting one member of Council guessed that there were about 20 children in Tobermory. The request for money was rejected.
Two weeks later, at the next Council meeting the proposal was, again, brought forward by Bill Jones, the CAO. This time they were asking for $25,000 to pour the concrete pad. In the meantime the group would try fundraising for the balance. Again, I objected on the ground that, if they failed to raise any money, we would be left with a concrete pad. I argued that they should raise the money first, keeping the funds in an interest-bearing account and when they had sufficient, Council could then decide whether to go ahead with the concrete pad. This way, if they had collected enough money, they could argue, with some credibility, that there was public support for the project. The rest of Council disagreed. They said a concrete pad would have many uses. They decided to call it a “multi-use recreational pad” and they voted to give the money. The concrete pad would be built behind the Meeting Place. I voted against giving the money.
The skateboard park issue came before Council again on October 15, 2013. Council was informed by the CAO that it has been determined that locating the skateboard park behind the Meeting Place was now deemed unsuitable as there were drainage and lighting issues. Accordingly, the CAO proposed to Council that the tennis court in Tobermory should be converted into the skateboard park. He said the owners of Tobermory Resort, Inn & Suites had agreed to let the public use their court, although there is nothing in writing. The CAO also suggested that if the skateboard park takes over the Tobermory tennis court, the $25,000 could be used to purchase the ramps thus reducing the amount of money needed from fund raising.
I pointed out that if the tennis court in Tobermory is under-used it is certainly because it has been neglected by the Municipality for several years. This year the lines had completely disappeared, the net poles were so tilted that the net was useless, the court surface was rough and the court area was littered with childrens’ hockey nets and a plastic swimming pool. In spite of my raising the matter three times at Council meetings, no effort was made to clean the tennis court up until late August, 2013. A usable and properly maintained tennis court in the centre of the village could be a tourist attraction but no effort has made to make it so. I told Council thatit reflects badly on the Municipality when it allows one of its visible assets to deteriorate. Council voted to approve replacing the tennis courts with a skateboard park. I voted against.
On November 25, 2013, Amanda Cuffe, of the skateboard park group, appeared before Council. She presented two skateboard park design options to Council and laid out the group’s goals over the next few months, which include trying to broaden community support for the project and fundraising. The group claimed that in 2006 there were 405 young people between the ages of 10 to 19 and by 2021 there will be 435. These statistics came from the Municipality’s Recreation Plan and they are inaccurate as the consultants, who authored the plan, admitted that the data was derived from provincial averages. In fact, according to the Provincial Education Quality and Accountability Office, which monitors school enrolment, in 2009 the population of youth aged 5 to 18 was 313 in the NBP. Since then the numbers have declined not risen.
Once again, I raised the concerns I have always had about this project. Because of the small number of local youth who would use it and the fact that most of the evidence for public support is anecdotal, I said more work should be done to demonstrate the project’s viability and support before committing large amounts of public money. One member of Council stated that the idea of a skateboard park “…was well received in the community” without offering any evidence of that and, as I noted above, it does not show in the community priorities in the Recreation Plan.
I told council that while the numbers of youth are much less than the 405 claimed by the skateboard park group, there is no evidence that young people will travel from Lions Head or Pike Bay to use a skateboard park in Tobermory. However, if they did travel all that way they would be mostly boys. A 2002 report from American Demographics found that there were 18.5 million skateboarders in the world. Eighty-five per cent were under 18 and 75 per cent were male. A 2010 report from Board-Trac, a leading market research company for manufacturers of board sports equipment, indicated that, of the 8 million skateboarders in North America, only 12.6% were female.
I am not against skateboard parks in principle but I do object to the way this Council spends public money without first gathering the data to demonstrate that the spending is in the public interest.