Ucluelet locals Jonah and Ron Pakarnyk spent some solid family time at the skate park last week. The district plans to add a $120

Ucluelet gets ready to roll out $120,000 skate park expansion

Public input sought to help shape skate park’s new street-style section.

Ucluelet locals are invited to help shape the future of their community’s skate scene.

The district is getting ready to roll out a 2,000 sq. ft., $120,000, street-style expansion to its skate park and a meeting will be held at the community centre on April 25 for anyone interested in providing input into what this expansion should look like.

The project’s $120,000 price tag will be split between Ucluelet and the federal government, as the district was successful in obtaining a $60,950 grant from the Canada 150 Infrastructure Program.

April 25’s meeting will be the first of many public input opportunities, according to Ucluelet’s Manager of Parks and Recreation Abby Fortune who said a plan will be in place by the end of 2016 and the project will be completed in 2017.

“We want community input so that we can find out what the community is looking for so that we can better plan what we’re doing and the outcome is what the community wants,” Fortune told the Westerly. “We’re eventually going to be working with a company to put this all together, but we want to hear from the community first…Then we can hone in on the specific goals of the project.”

The current skate bowl was built in 2008 and a street-style section was always part of the plan, according to Fortune who added completing the street-section was identified as “highly important to the community” during public input into Ucluelet’s Recreation Master Plan, published in 2013.

She said skateboarding is a popular activity locally and the enhanced park would mesh well with the budding recreation hub surrounding Ucluelet’s community centre, including the skate bowl, bike park, basketball court and a beach volleyball court that’s expected to be completed in time for summer.

“Especially for such a small community, it’s incredible the amenities that we do have,” she said. “Our kids have real opportunities to be active…and the kids could be 35 too; it’s all ages.”

She believes providing local youth with unstructured outdoor recreational opportunities is vital to their health and wellbeing.

“This gives someone an opportunity to have unstructured play:  get outdoors, be active, be healthy and enjoy what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s important to offer facilities for people to be able to have the opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle.”

She added outdoor play builds confidence and helps kids appreciate the fruits of active lifestyles.

“It sets these kids up to be strong. It sets these kids up to make smart decisions. It sets these kids up to have a lifelong love of being active so that when they get to the tender age of 50, or what have you, these kids will be active because it’s a part of who they are,” she said. “By giving them opportunities when they’re in their childhood, and early adulthood, that’s something they can pass on to the next generation.”

She said creating connections with the outdoors by providing access to unstructured play is a key goal of Canada’s National Parks and Recreation Association and Ucluelet is well suited to abide.

“Canadian recreation is struggling with Type 2 diabetes, the obesity issue and, for the first time ever, they’re predicting our kids are going to have a shorter life expectancy and that’s pretty scary,” she said. “By creating that lifelong love of being active, and it doesn’t have to be high end sports, it’s just getting out there and getting on a skateboard or a bike or playing volleyball; these are all things that you can do for the rest of your life and it’s so important that we’re able to provide those opportunities.”

Municipal councillor Sally Mole, a vocal supporter of recreation, hopes to see a solid and diverse turnout at the April 25 meeting.

“I really want everyone who is a skate park user or a potential skate park user, meaning kids, to come to the meeting and know that their voice is valued,” she said adding this input would help create a sense of local ownership. “The users own it and that is really, really, valuable. If you own that park, you’re going to take care of it.”

She suggested local youth should be spending more time outdoors and it’s up to the community to make sure they understand how fun Ucluelet’s backyard can be.

“Kids game a lot. They’re on their screens a lot; so the more we can encourage them to be outdoors the better and we have a great outdoors,” she said. “Providing our youth with more opportunity to be outside is the right thing to do.”

She echoed Fortune on the value of unstructured play.

“If we can give those kids the opportunity to direct their own recreation, I think it’s a great thing for their fitness and wellness and health,” she said. “If you’re a kid who’s healthy, active and out there, then you’re probably going to make healthier choices as you grow older.”