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.”