Local mischief highlights need for skatepark—not RCMP talks

In an opinion column, writer Joel Barde argues the arena should be utilized as a temporary skate park. Photo by Joel Barde.

It’s high time Sun Peaks got its own skatepark, and as there is no concrete timeline for one to be built, an interim measure is needed. 

The Sun Peaks Centre arena, with its brand new concrete floor, is ideally suited for just that. 

A few obstacles—a couple boxes, a ledge and a portable rail—would provide local youth with everything that’s needed to skate and have fun until a real skatepark is built. The municipality can always put the obstacles aside if the space is needed for an event. 

The community badly needs a place where teenagers can hang out and engage in unstructured recreation. 

And what better venue to do that than a makeshift skatepark?  

It might seem counterintuitive, but growing up in a mountain town can be stifling. The usual hangouts—whether it be the movies, mall, youth centre, or skatepark—don’t exist. And while the mountain provides an amazing source of recreation in the summer and winter, biking, skiing and boarding are not for everyone. Plus the mountain closes in mid-afternoon or early evening. 

A skatepark could serve as a constructive hangout and divert the type of mischief that inevitably happens when such a place doesn’t exist. 

Just last week, in a departmental report to council, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s (SPMRM) bylaw department noted that in May bylaw officers caught some local kids climbing on top of the Sun Peaks School. 

During its June 15 regular council meeting, SPMR acting chief administrative officer Nicky Braithwaite explained that bylaw was able to notify parents and the school administrators about the incident.

Brathwaite added this wasn’t the first time local kids have caused trouble in the community. 

In June 2020, a group was caught throwing rocks at the plexiglass of the arena, she said. 

As a way to discourage this behaviour, Brathwaite said she asked RCMP to talk to students at both the elementary and secondary schools. 

“I just felt that maybe it was time for the RCMP to have a chat with some of these kids…[to] give them an idea of what can happen with vandalism and trespassing,” she explained.

Councillor Ines Popig thanked Brathwaite for making the RCMP request, and added that there was a major safety concern at play as well.

“In addition to trespassing, I think the danger associated with being on the roof and potentially falling off might be more of a concern,” she said. 

While I can understand the motivation behind the RCMP talking to, I can’t help but think that the municipality is overlooking the root causes of the problem at hand. As has been the case in every generation, kids get into trouble when they get bored. 

I think a skatepark could go a lot further in deterring mischief than an RCMP talk.

Progress has been made on building a permanent skatepark in the community in recent years. 

A skatepark is included in the Master Development Plan between the province and Sun Peaks LLP, and the local skateboard advocacy organization, the Sun Peaks Skate Park Foundation (SPSPF), has already raised around $50,000 towards the project. 

For its part, SPMRM council has agreed to provide land and some funding once the SPSPF has the the majority of construction funding in place.

Yet despite this progress, getting the skate park built could be years off, so the municipality would be wise to utilize the arena space as a small, DIY park.

It’s not perfect, but it would be better than nothing. 

As some readers may have seen, Kamloops native Matt Berger achieved a truly remarkable achievement earlier this month. After a successful showing at the Street World Championship in Italy, he qualified for for this summer’s Olympic games.  

These Olympic Games will mark the first time skateboarding is included in the Games, a milestone that for better or for worse will legitimize skateboarding in the eyes of millions. 

Berger became obsessed with skateboarding at a young age, spending countless hours practicing in his backyard. 

Kamloops kid Matt Berger learned how to manhandle rails skating his local skatepark and said he’d love to see Sun Peaks get its own. Photo by Joey Shigeo Muellner (Monster Energy).

In an interview with SPIN (a full story is coming), Berger said the construction of the Kamloops Rotary Skatepark at McArthur Island Park in the early 2000s was integral in his development as a skater. 

The park is renowned as one of the best in Canada  

Berger added that the decision to build the park on the north shore, was one of the best decisions the City of Kamloops could have made, as it provides a positive outlet for youth who might not necessarily have access to more expensive sports, such as hockey or skiing and snowboarding.

Berger added that it can be hard for people outside of skateboarding to grasp how large of a positive effect it can have on young people.

“I watched skateboarding completely divert so many kids from mischief and going down the wrong road,” he said.  “When there’s nothing to do for the youth, they’re going to get into trouble, right?”

Berger added that he thinks a skatepark in Sun Peaks could be a tremendous opportunity for the resort when it comes to tourism. 

Skaters travel. Many of his friends make an annual pilgrimage to Mammoth Mountain to skate its park, much like mountain bikers flock to Sun Peaks to ride, he explained. 

Locally, a skatepark (even a small one with minimal features) would help foster the scene, which is likely surprisingly big given the amount of snowboarders who live in the community. 

“I think Sun Peaks would probably be surprised at how big the skate community is up there,” said Berger. 

There is no doubt the municipality has made tremendous amounts of progress over the past ten years in terms of creating a full-fledged community that is attractive for families to live and work in the community. 

In recent years, the families have shown up, and going forward, they will continue to come. 

And while this is surely a positive thing, their kids need somewhere to hang out. A temporary arena skatepark could be just the ticket (until we get a full-blown concrete one). 

Building obstacles would require some small investments that could result in major benefits. 

And who knows, maybe youth will find hanging out at the skate park more entertaining than climbing onto the roof of their school? 

That would be good for everyone!

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