Deschênes lost its skatepark and barely anyone noticed
While the entire population was quarantined for multiple months because of COVID-19, Deschênes residents lost their neighbourhood skatepark – and barely anyone noticed. In early July, Deschênes resident Melissa Barr contacted the Aylmer Bulletin with concerns about missing skateboarding infrastructure at Kenneth-Lloyd Park. With her son wanting to engage in outdoor activities while in self-isolation during the spring, Barr said she was disappointed to see the ramps removed – adding that some kids, including her son, resorted to doing tricks on large rocks sitting on the side of Chemin Vanier. “He has injured himself,” Barr said. “He got caught in between a couple of rocks.”
Annually, the city has removed skateboarding modules from the park to allow the assembling of an outdoor hockey rink in the winter, reinstalling them in the spring for the summer. Barr noted that her son had used the skatepark for about three weeks during the spring, before one day seeing that the ramps were gone.
In different exchanges with city representatives on the matter, one stated that the equipment had been taken away because of COVID-19 – when all parks were closed indefinitely – another said they were distributed to other parks, and a third said it was because the ramps were no longer safe, Barr said. According to city of Gatineau spokesperson Rachel Rivard, Kenneth-Lloyd Park featured a variety of skateboarding ramps and modules since at least 2004, until this year.
She explained that the decision to not reinstall the infrastructure this year was in consideration of people’s safety, noting that the site’s asphalt was in rough shape, and that the skateboarding modules were rusty, having exceeded their lifecycle. She added that the park was not frequently used, without pointing to any data on the matter. “According to the needs and the state of the equipment, the skateboarding modules are reinstalled annually, relocated elsewhere or removed if they’re no longer safe,” Rivard said in an email.
In the fall of 2018, Gatineau Skateboard, in collaboration with the Aylmer Services Centre, conducted an assessment of all skateparks in the city – examining the quality, usability, and safety of the skatepark modules for people of all ages. According to Gatineau Skateboard’s Program Director Jean-Philippe Roy, the skating modules at Kenneth-Lloyd Park were deemed as dangerous and inadequate for people to use.
“Rust was found on the pyramid and the sheet metal was coming off the quarter pipe,” Roy said in an email. “Both modules had sharp edges and had sunken into the asphalt, creating an uneven surface that could cause injury to children.” Roy added that the now removed modules were likely designed by playground manufacturers, rather than skateboarders, and weren’t even skateable for the average skater.
Deschênes councillor Mike Duggan told the Aylmer Bulletin, around a month ago, that he wasn’t aware of the situation – noting that he didn’t know what happened to the old ramps. “Was anybody even using them?” Duggan said. “I haven’t been notified about this skateboard thing.”
In mid-July, the city removed Kenneth-Lloyd Park from its list of municipal skateparks available on its website. As it stands, the only two left in Aylmer are at Parc Central in the Plateau and beside the Paul-Pelletier Aquatic Centre.
Rivard noted that, by the end of this year, the city expects to hold consultation sessions for Aylmer residents and municipal partners to assess the community’s needs and better serve adolescents – noting that it will consider those needs in the potential elaboration of a plan for a new skatepark.
Committed to promoting the sport and improving skateboarding infrastructure across the city, Roy said that Gatineau Skateboard is more than willing to work with the city in the elaboration of a quality skating environment at Kenneth-Lloyd Park, if it makes that decision.