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Skateboarders upset after city crews demolish homemade park on dead end street

DIY skatepark took about 3 months to build but was dismantled in hours
Nov. 8, 2016
By Muriel Draaisma

A group of friends is upset after city crews demolished in hours what it took three months to build - a DIY skate park at the end of a dead end Toronto street.

"'People were really invested in this. This meant a lot to people," Toronto skateboarder Syd Patterson said this week. "People really got together to make this happen. This was not an individual effort. This was a collaborative effort by a lot of people."

The skateboarders learned a tough lesson - you can't build on city property without permission - after they built the park at the dead end of Paton Road, near Bloor Street West and Landsdowne Avenue, in the Junction Triangle.

Patterson said the park was a concrete bowl, a contained sphere "that you could pump off of endlessly."

He said the creation had the support of other skateboarders, local residents and nearby businesses. He and his friends used more than 150 bags of cement to create the park and taught themselves how to mix concrete. It was built one bag of cement at a time.

Once they heard the city had planned to demolish it, the group collected hundreds of signatures on a petition to stop the demolition, but it was too late.

Now, at the park, a little vigil has been set up, with four religious candles behind a homemade card that reads: "RIP DIY." A single white rose lies in front of the candles. Patterson said a stranger created the makeshift memorial.

Nicky Young, another skateboarder, said the local community was pleased that the skateboarders had transformed the derelict space. The park was maintained by the skateboarders.

"They knew it was bringing something better to neighbourhood," he said.

"There were a bunch of bottles and needles and beer cans and junk that was here. And we really cleaned it up and brought a lot of young people together who wanted to do something good for the community."

Kevin Walters, a Toronto resident who owns a coffee house in the area, said the demolition destroyed a beautiful addition to neighbourhood and local residents fully supported the skateboarders.

"This installation was beautiful. It was a work of art. It really improved the whole atmosphere of this area and it added to the sense of community that makes life in a city almost like a village," he said.

"It almost looked a swimming pool. It was cement with whitewash and blue trim around the top. It covered this whole area and it looked great."

Coun. Ana Bailao, Ward 18 - Davenport, said the skateboard park was demolished because it was built without city permits.

"It was in contravention of the bylaws. It was done without any permits, any knowledge of the city."

Bailao said the park created safety and liability issues. She said she was impressed with the energy of the group, but it should have contacted the city first.

"You want to nurture this involvement that the youth want to have in shaping our city. But obviously, you need to do it by involving everybody," she said.

The speed of the demolition surprised her, but she said it had to be done.

"It sends a message that we can't just go around and start building things everywhere. There has to be a process of involvement."

Bailao said the city has plans to build a pedestrian walkway to connect the two sides of Paton Road in the space in which the park was built.

In October, the city released a report emphasizing the need for more skate parks in Toronto after consulting with a group of skateboarders on what the new parks should look like.

If the city is serious about involving young people in its plans, Patterson said: "Let skateboarders have an active role in how parks get made."