When stores in the Village of Wellesley close their doors and store owners head home for the night, a new set of patrons arrives: skateboarders, practicing ollies and grinds on the steps and railings around town.
In a few weeks, those skateboarders should have their own space to practice, on equipment set up in the arena.
“It’s really exciting that this dream of a skate park is finally happening,” said Karla Wilker of the youth advisory committee.
A skate park has been on the wish list for at least three years, when the youth circulated a petition in support of the idea. The committee surveys the schools each spring, and a skate park comes up every year.
Wilker said she doesn’t know exactly how many skateboarders there are in Wellesley, but it’s a popular sport. Last year the committee hosted a free skate day with some borrowed equipment and 70 kids turned out.
While a permanent skate park isn’t on the books yet, there will be five or six pieces of equipment for kids to skate on, including a fun box, quarter pipe and rails.
“An outdoor park … at this point is kind of out of the question because of the cost,” said Coun. Jim Olender, who has been leading the charge to get the equipment.
Olender’s son Trevor is a skateboarder, and Olender learned that kids were skateboarding on the steps of stores, the library and the arena because there was nowhere else for them to go.
“The kids have absolutely nothing to do in these small centres,” he said.
Olender is a director of the Wilmot Family Resource Centre, which runs an indoor skateboarding program in the old New Hamburg arena, and he asked the WFRC to launch a similar program in Wellesley. The agency couldn’t get enough funding to run the program, but they were able to get some money to put towards equipment. The youth advisory committee got a mini grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, and the Wellesley recreation services board also chipped in.
The plan was to have the equipment in place at the beginning of July, but the purchasing was held up. Now they’re hoping to get things in before school starts, so the kids can get a few weeks of skateboarding before the ice goes in.
The idea is to share the equipment with Wilmot. There is no ice in the old New Hamburg arena, so that facility can be used year-round. The equipment from Wellesley could be loaned to Wilmot for the winter months, eliminating the need for storage space.
“There’s no sense in this material sitting in storage if we can work out some arrangement where we’ll loan it to [Wilmot] in the wintertime and maybe they loan us some pieces back in the summer,” said Steve Bader, who sits on the recreation service board.
Bader said the equipment that is being purchased could be installed in a permanent skate park if the township opts to go down that road in the future.
“We’re kind of taking it baby steps at a time … because of sheer dollars in terms of putting in a permanent facility as well as having everything in place in terms of insurance and staffing.”
When the equipment arrives, the arena will be open a few afternoons and evenings a week. Volunteers from the recreation service board will supervise, and Bader said there’s the possibility of a summer student position being created in the future.
The youth advisory committee is planning to run a concession stand to raise a few dollars, and Wilker said the few weeks they have this year will be a good trial run.
“It’ll be a good learning experience for what we’ll have to do next year to make it a whole summer venture.”