By Jennifer Hoegg
Matt MacLeod wants Kentville to have a skateboard park – again.
The local orthodontist helped get a River Street park going when he was a teenager, but that ‘90s-era facility is long gone.
On returning to his hometown, the 36-year-old saw the need for a spot for skateboarders of all ages to play.
“In ‘91 – it was by the old Lions Club. Had a chain link fence and some wooden obstacles,” MacLeod recalled. “It only lasted a few years.”
After living in a number of Canadian cities while pursuing his education, it’s obvious “the sport has grown up and there is a lot going on,” he said.
“I came back to Kentville with my wife to settle down last year and I just thought it would be great to get in touch with the town and see if we could generate some interest in getting things done here,” MacLeod said.
“Other towns around the province have gotten on the bandwagon and got some parks on the go,” he added, noting Kentville is a leader in active living and sports facilities locally.
“I just think skateboarding should be in that whole strategy,” he said. “It’s a very cool sport right now for boys and girls.”
So far, MacLeod has started a Facebook profile for the initiative, met with the town’s chief administrative officer, Mark Phillips, and has made a presentation to Kentville council advisory committee.
“I wanted to get a feel for the town and see if they have skateboarding on their radar, and try to generate… some interest,” MacLeod said.
He said the sport is more popular than anyone driving through town might know. In his subdivision, there are skateboard ramps in driveways – and in his basement – and kids skate in parking lots or in neighbouring communities.
“I think anyone of the older generation, like me, gets in their car and goes to Chester to skateboard,” he said. “Chester is a big success story that way, showing it doesn’t take a big town to have a big success story of a skateboard park.”
At the December meeting, he received positive comments from several councillors, but he was urged to show there’s more support for the initiative.
“The relationships that work best for municipalities are partnerships,” Deputy Mayor Mark Pearl said. “If you look back at some of the success stories we have had in Kentville over the years … they had a champion.”
Phillips said the town is looking at potential for a multi-sport park on the former Esso property. The approximately four-acre site on the east side of Gary Pearl Drive is near Kings County Academy, the town soccer fields and community playground.
A tentative design from Trail Flow Outdoor Adventures of Wolfville showed space for mountain biking, a BMX “pump track,” skateboard, scooter and rollerblade area.
Phillips said the design is just to “show the potential of the site,” but he is pleased MacLeod has come forward.
“We need a little bit of a groundswell on skateboarding, in particular,” to spark interest in the development, Phillips said.
While keen on the idea of a dedicated space, MacLeod cautioned that the area needs to be well-designed, by a company that specializes in skateboard parks – not bike trails.
“You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a park that is dangerous or poorly laid out or is just not fun and you’ll still have people skateboarding behind the post office.”
Having it in a well-trafficked area near the school is a good idea, he said, allowing for afterschool and gym class activities at the site. It also would be as central as other recreation properties.
“The whole idea is put it in a centralized, open space. Have it well lit. Make it something that is really accessible,” MacLeod said. “When a park is well lit and highly visible, the amount of mischief that goes on there is drastically reduced.”
Since the December meeting, MacLeod has been talking with people working on similar projects in other Nova Scotia communities and working on planning a public meeting to get a committee underway.
“I really want to start raising awareness of skateboarding in town and gather public support and then I can convey that support to council.”
Anyone interested in joining the effort may email MacLeod, firstname.lastname@example.org, or search Facebook for “Kentville Skate.”