Skatepark phase two TTC money redirected

Photo: Courtesy of Steve Jarrett

Construction on phase two of the Beaches Skatepark at Coxwell and Lakeshore has been put on hold, possibly indefinitely, after Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon requested $300,000 in TTC funds earmarked for the park be released.

McMahon said she would like to see the community decide how the money should be spent.

“Since it wasn’t spent and it’s been a few years, I decided to have a motion to reallocate it to another idea that the community comes up with,” she said.

The funding is Section 37 money, which is a section of the Planning Act which allows the city to alter zoning bylaws in exchange for funding for ‘community benefits’, in the form of capital facilities or cash towards capital facilities. The funding for phase two of the skatepark was requested by former councillor Sandra Bussin at a December 2009 TTC Commission meeting.

“Lots of times with Section 37 money, the councillor just allocates it,” said McMahon.

Steve Jarrett is a Beach resident who was involved in the Southeast Skateboard Association, which first lobbied the city to build the park almost a decade ago. The association has morphed into the Beaches Skatepark Association, and has taken over maintenance of the park on a volunteer basis.

He said the news will be devastating to the skaters.

“It took 10 years of work by thousands of kids and parents in Beaches/East York to lobby, fundraise and design this facility so it’s an unbelievable disappointment to hear that the funding has suddenly been pulled out from underneath the efforts of all these local kids,” he said.

He said the park has been the centrepiece of Ashbridges Bay becoming a focal point for action sports in Ontario. Last year the park was the site of six national and two North American skateboarding events, and in peak season is almost always used at or over capacity.

McMahon said she’s heard from many people in Ward 32 that have expressed concern about the amount of money that has been spent on building the skatepark. She said she knows the park is very well used, by skaters from Ward 32, the west end, and from outside Toronto as well.

“I’m a big supporter of the skateboard park,” she said.

However, she still wants to halt any plans to spend the $300,000 until after more consultation.

“I’d like the community to decide how that money is spent,” she said.

As far as Jarrett is concerned, that money was already spent. If not for a number of various delays over the past year and a half in tendering the contract, construction would already be underway on the bowl. The plans have already been completed and paid for, he said, and many skaters assumed the bowl would be built as soon as the city’s red tape had been dealt with and the contract could go out to tender.

“We need to finish what was planned, designed with significant input from local community youth, and had funding allocated for. We need more capacity. We want what has been long promised. It’s important for local youth, the local economy and local tourism,” he said.

McMahon said if consultation leads to a consensus to build phase two of the skatepark, that’s what will happen.

“If the ward is keen on the bowl, then for sure, put it in,” she said. “The money will be spent in the community, in the ward, where the community sees fit.”


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9 comments

Steve Jarret hit the nail on the head in that this money was already spent. In a documented e-mail discussion with Councillor McMahon on Friday she admits to not having the full history on the skateboard park. If she had looked into the history she would know that many community meetings have already been held and consensus reached within her community to complete the skatepark in it’s entirety. She is seemingly unphased by the money the city has already spent on purchasing the plans and preparing the land for the bowl. There are so many in the community passionate and commited to this project than against or indifferent to it; So many were thrilled to see it come to fruition. “Since it wasn’t spent and it’s been a few years, I decided to have a motion to reallocate it to another idea that the community comes up with,” how arbitrary of her! Very dissapointing, that at a whim, one person can put a halt to such a phenomenal community project that has been a decade in the making.

Interesting. Councillor McMahon states that,
” If the Community states that it wants the bowl, then we’ll build the bowl.”

I was one of the parents who was involved in Community Consultations galore to lobby the City for a Skate Park. Beaches Recreation Centre, The Mennonite Centre on Queen, Main Square Community Centre were just a few of the places where our group attended meetings with City employees. It was an open invitation to the Community to say what they wanted. As members of The Community, it took years for us to get the City to listen. We spoke loudly and clearly that there was a crying need for a skate park to be built. And the thousands of skaters who use the Ashbridges Bay Skate Park have proven that the City’s investment was justified.

Councillor McMahon, whose office told me that there was opposition to the skate park now that it is only partially built, is speaking up for whose interests?

Who are the people opposed to children enjoying themselves in the fresh air and not have to pay an arm and a leg to do it. Like organized hockey, baseball, soccer or football costs.

One of my professional interests is that of Risk Management. Indeed I have placed liability insurance for several private skate parks in and around the GTA. The fact is that we have an incomplete skate park now. There was a plan for a bowl, which would attract older skaters, who would act as a deterrent for those that just want to cause trouble at the Skate Park, because the City won’t pay for any supervision because of liability exposures. The bowl not being built will leave the children that much unsafer because of the fewer adult skaters who would use the park.

One of the other joys of skating is that it’s open to all. All you need is a skateboard. You don’t have to pay a hundreds of dollars to join a league, or thousands of dollars for equipment or be a certain age or gender. Just a skateboard. It’s inexpensive fun for children of all ages.

The City did a wonderful thing building this skate park. Phase One is the beginning of a very fine facility.But building a skatepark without a bowl is like building a swimming pool without a deep end.

How many hockey rinks, tennis courts or swimming pools don’t have lights or permanent bathroom facilities. The Ashbridges Bay Skate Park has none of these amenities.

We petitioned the City and Parks and Rec. And they listened. They really listened. But now, Councillor McMahon is apparently listening to other interests besides the children who can’t skate after dark and don’t have any drinking fountains or a permanent washroom facilities.

I know that Councillor McMahon is a thoughtful and reasonable person. Please Mary- Margaret, stand up for children and working parents and complete what we started. It is patently unfair to not finish what the City promised to do.

Truly,

Byron Yankou
Gainsborough Road
Toronto

I’m hoping that as more of the history behind the plans for this skateboard park unfold, wisdom will prevail. The amount of work and consultations that have gone into planning, designing, and constructing this project to date can’t easily be dismissed. This park is a great place to bring my 10 year son and his friends, but it never felt complete… and it’s also very crowded with the number of people that come to skate there.

I’ve seen young kids consistently mentored by older skateboarders to learn tricks, and to respect each other as they share this busy space. The physical activity they get is incredible, as is the confidence-building that results. The costs to parents and skateboarders is nominal compared to many other sports, making it more accessible to people from all socio-economic backgrounds. AND the City doesn’t have to pay for supervision such as in a community centre, or permits to schools, etc. As a landscape architect who spends a lot of time thinking about public space and community use of these spaces, I urge Councillor Mary-Margaret to please stay the course and complete this skateboard park as originally planned.

Dear Mary-Margaret McMahon, Councillor, Ward 32:
As with any kind of construction, you can have it fast, good, or cheap, but you must pick two only! Please have a little patience with this skatepark project. $300,000 is very economical considering how high the water table is in this area. You have the opportunity to be a positive part of this new and evolving sport in the ward you represent. Please do not stop construction plans by withdrawing funds.
Leslie Yost, 1336 Kingston Rd. (not a skateboarder by the way!)

I wonder how the owners of office towers in the financial district feel about this — more skateparks = less ‘vandalism’ and liability and nuissance

Go ahead and scrap the plans….

Make Toronto and even more horribly dull city for the people who need these facilities.

One day idiots wont be in charge of important decision making.

-Daniel Lefebre

Many thanks to Councillor McMahon and her fine associates working for Ward 32.

This afternoon, Councillor McMahon’s office issued a statement promising to shepherd the Phase 2 Bowl Project through to completion this year!

They heard the phone calls, read multiple e-mails, noted Facebook comments and these letters to the editor. They received the leader of the Ashbridges Bay Skate Park Project, Steve Jarrett, who spear headed the initial lobbying effort to get the park built and kept this project going forward. Steve took one of the stalwarts of the initial lobbying effort, Steve Kotsopoulos, with him today February 9,2012, to City Hall.

Steve & Steve, made a calm, rational and compelling case that there had indeed been community consultation and widespread support to get the very successful Ashbridges Bay Skate Park built.

They received fair hearing from Councillor McMahon with a promise from her to see to it that ,the Bowl be completed this year. So Mary-Margaret you’ve experienced the outpouring of emotion and affection for our skate park and again, we thank you for listening.

Ms McMahon, I have no doubt that you’ll make certain to keep abeyancing the skate park file and give us regular progress reports with a time line to having the bowl completed in a timely manner in 2012. This project has taken an extraordinary amount of time to get this far, but we’re almost there! I know you’ll see it through to completion.

Thank you Jon Muldoon & Beach Metro News for writing this front page story that really opened all of our collective eyes. A compelling debut, Mr Editor!

Bravo to the Skate Community both in the Ward, across the GTA and across Canada. Democracy works when we do.

Byron Yankou
Gainsborough Road
Toronto

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