Sylvan Lake parents are concerned about behaviours observed at the outdoor skate park.
Crystal Rhayn-Koch, a Sylvan Lake parent, appealed to Town Council Monday night to help make the skate park a safer, more welcoming place for people of all ages.
She says many parents in the community feel the skate park is unsafe due to the behaviours of some who frequent the park. Specifically she points out people are being verbally abused and others say they are being accosted with loud and offensive music.
“Some other skate park parents are uncomfortable with sending out children to the park,” Rhayn-Koch said.
She presented a proposal to Council at the recent meeting, which including adding lights to the skate park as well as hiring someone to oversee the park during the busy hours of the summer months.
Adding lights is a matter of safety, according to Rhayn-Koch. With daylight hours diminishing many boarders are left to take the ramps in dim lights from the setting sun or the near-by parking lot.
“The park is supposed to be open to the public until 11 p.m., but with the only light available in the spring and fall coming from the parking lot, someone is going to get hurt,” she said.
By hiring a staff member in the summer to look after the park and encourage respectful behaviour, Ryan-Koch says it will bring more families to the park.
She says having some form of supervision during the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the summer, when the park is more likely to be used, will help make parents feel better about sending their kids to the park. It will also help to discourage unsavoury behaviour and language.
“There is already a building there, so a new skate hut wouldn’t have to be built, and the employee could also provide a concession during the summer,” she suggested.
Along with maintaining a code of conduct at the park, Rhyan-Koch also suggested the summer hire would be able to administer basic first aid in the chance someone at the park is hurt.
Town administration has been brainstorming multiple ways to make the park more inclusive and safer for all ages. Though staff does not recommend it, they also looked into the possibility of hiring staff to supervise the park.
Ron Lebsack, community services director, says a “skate park ambassador” could provide the possibility of programming at the park, but would ultimately not be the wisest choice.
“We believe the constant ‘supervision’ would push some skaters away from the skate park and into other areas of the community,” Lebsack said, adding, “seasonal staff positions could be used more effectively in other roles.”
Instead, Lebsack suggests monitoring issues at the park and increasing interactions through existing staff.
The idea would be to increase patrols and interactions with Municipal Enforcement and RCMP at the skate park.
“This is something that has a very positive impact in other communities,” Lebsack said.
He suggested having the bylaw officers and RCMP members stop by more frequently, get out of their cars and actually talk and interact with those at the skate park.
Council has not made any decisions as to what to do with the concerns at this time, but do recognize something needs to be done.
“The park should be a safe place for all ages,” said Coun. Megan Chernoff Hanson, who said she has felt accosted and uncomfortable while at the park with her family.
“I really think we need to make some changes,” Hanson said. “We need to do more to ensure the behaviour is safe.”
Council will be looking into potential avenue to explore and will also be developing a community engagement session to explain what is expected at the park and ways Council is looking at enforcing it.
No date has been set for a community engagement session ethos time.