Skateboarders. Quick, what’s the first thing you think of?
Slackers…drug users…people with no ambition who would rather hang out at the park than do something meaningful with their lives.
Dave Clark has heard them all – and has made it a goal of his to change that perception.
The 38-year-old Cornwall man says changing the sentiment must start at the grassroots level and if the city wants to avoid missing out on a golden opportunity to embrace a popular – yet still marginalized – sport, it needs to get rolling now, pardon the pun.
While Clark spends countless hours at the city’s skateboarding facility, that’s likely because it’s the only facility in town.
It’s his hope, and the hope of many, the city will soon sink some money into the park and bring it up to date.
“It’s really simple, if you build it people will come,” said Clark.
Montreal, Ottawa and other neighbouring municipalities have sunk significant dollars into their skateboarding parks and they have become hubs for regional boarders. Competitions have been organized and municipalities are starting to see a return on their investment.
It’s called skate tourism and Clark said the city should be considering more of an investment in it. And he knows what he’s talking about.
Clark is the exact opposite of what many people consider a “skater” to be. For one, he’s a success – the director of business development for a west coast-based software developer. Every day he is on the phone with multi-national companies brokering business deals.
He’s a father of four, who has worked with municipalities in the past, including as a member of the Coquitlam skate park committee.
“We travel every weekend to Ottawa or Montreal,” he said, suggesting more dollars are flooding those cities from skateboarders who might stick closer to home if a better facility was created.
Cornwall’s 10-year-old skateboarding facility is ok, say local boarders, but is on the low end of what has become acceptable to many who glide along sidewalks and streets.
City hall has made the skate park a priority of sorts, putting it on the parks department’s master plan for review and upgrade.
But it all comes down to dollars, and as parks and recreation manager Christine Lefebvre suggests, budgets are tight.
“It’s something we know we need to look at,” she said, acknowledging the city’s skate park is becoming “outdated.
“(But) every year we have tight budgets. And this was one of those years.”
The city trimmed its parks budget to the point that instead of refurbishing two playground structures as it normally does each year, in 2012 the city will do just one.
Clark said it’s not like the city has to spend bags of money right away to update the park.
“Here there is nowhere for kids to sit,” he said, gesturing to the park during an interview. “Some benches would be great. And there’s no place to get away from the heat. Some kids hide out under the ramps to find some shade.”
He wants to make it clear that skateboarding is not just a fad. After all, he’s been skateboarding for 30 years.
“You can’t go five feet in Cornwall without seeing a skateboarder,” he said. “When I go down Pittt Street all I see are skateboarders.
“If you count people who are just rolling, who are looking to go from point A to B, it’s even more.”