Huxley Skatepark design unveiled

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, October 3 2017

The design for the Gabriola skatepark, to be built in the northeast corner of Huxley Community Park, has been unveiled by the Parks staff at the Regional District of Nanaimo.

It was presented on September 11 at the Gabriola Arts Centre by Jim Barnum with Spectrum Skateparks Inc. and Elaine McCulloch, RDN Park Planner.

The design was based on a workshop held at the HOPE Centre in the spring of 2017, where Barnum provided potential styles of parks and features.

Gabriolans then told Barnum what types of features they wanted to see in the Gabriola park.

Overall feedback when the design was unveiled was positive, with those present on Sept. 11 pointing out areas they thought could be improved.

At the Sept. 11 meeting, Barnum said a bowl style was pretty dominant in all categories - as was a “street” style park.

“Bowl and flow terrain had the highest ranking.”

The budget for the build of the skatepark is $350,000.

Barnum said the budget was perfect for the size of the site and community.

What he didn’t want to do though, was try to fit all the requests into a small site.

“If you try and do 50/50 of two things, you end up with two lousy things.”

The main “square” of the park will be the flow bowl - with the straight street section flowing south out of the bowl down the east side of the tennis courts.

The end of the street course will have a wave shaped feature already dubbed, “Malaspina” as it will look like the famous Gabriola Galleries.

Given the geography of the area, Barnum estimates the RDN will need to dig down about two feet at the most northern portion of the park, and then build the features up from there.

A sandstone retaining wall will be built on the Commons (east) side of the skatepark.

Pathways currently running from the Commons into Huxley will be rerouted around the skateboarding area - to prevent collisions with pedestrians.

The park will be graded so that drainage will flow to the east side of the street course, and certainly away from the tennis courts, which are higher in elevation than the street course.

The flow zone will be 24 metres (roughly 80 feet) wide from east to west.

The street course will be 16 feet wide (east to west) and 130 feet long.

A seating area on the south section of the flow zone will also be built.

One of the islanders at the feedback workshop asked, “Is the seating area skateable?”

Both Barnum and McCulloch said it could be.

Those attending said that given the relatively small size of the Gabriola skatepark, everything built into it should be skateable.

Lest the park be a grey blob, Barnum said there would be sandstone-coloured concrete (again, a nod to the Malaspina Galleries and Gabriola sandstone) incorporated into the park.

A timeline moving forward

The big question of course, is the timeline.

The short version is: design finalized by end of 2017; construction plans put in place during 2018, and local community fundraising started.

Major grant and RDN fund sourcing will be done in 2019; ground broken and the skatepark ready to skate sometime in 2020.

Long version: with some minor changes coming out of the feedback session, Barnum and McCulloch should have the final design posted to the Gabriola skatepark section of the RDN website (www.rdn.bc.ca) by the end of this year.

Being as the skatepark is just one of the items on the RDN’s work plan for Gabriola parks, McCulloch will have time in 2018 to put together the actual construction costs of the skatepark - that will enable her and the RDN to go after major provincial and federal grant dollars in 2019.

At the same time McCulloch is doing that, a local group of Gabriolans are starting to put together a plan to raise local dollars and support to finally get the skatepark built. 

The group is a mix of Gabriolans, some of whom have been on the island long enough to have been part of the first run at building a skatepark here in the 1990s. Others are more recent arrivals, raising a new generation of Gabriolans.

McCulloch said when she goes after the larger grants, she will need to show public support. “It helps when I’m doing my grants to show there is community support in the form of donations - it really shows the community supports; that’s what the governments want.”

She gave 20 per cent of the $350,000 construction cost as a target to raise locally, about $72,000.

Whatever isn’t gained through grants or local fundraising will then have to come from the RDN budget as the RDN board allows.

McCulloch said when she was working on the RDN skatepark in Cedar, it took two years of writing grants to get the necessary funding. 

Cedar’s skatepark cost $600,000 to complete, a portion of which was raised through local fundraising efforts.