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'Really nowhere for these kids': Newmarket skateboarder upset after town dismantles impromptu skate park

Do-it-yourself skate park contravened bylaws, town says
June 24, 2021
Sara Alves Fernandes

With skate parks closed down during the COVID-19 lockdown, Joel Fraser and a couple of friends took action by building their own Newmarket skate park accessible to everyone.

“All the skate parks were closed. And it's like, well, let's just build stuff for everybody to use and we found a good spot ... near lots of younger people, who don't have vehicles, so they can get to it really easily,” Joel Fraser said.

The impromptu skate park, in an abandoned parking lot at 315 Davis Dr., ran for a couple of months before the town removed it without warning May 31, despite the friends’ contact information written on the ramps.

"One day we showed up and two construction workers were there and they told us that they're paid by the town to come break all the stuff,” Fraser said.

The friends built the park after bylaw officers told them to move their previous skateboard park at a basketball court near the Outdoor Gorman Pool, he said.

This time, multiple police officers assured them the spot was OK and several neighbours helped with construction, Fraser said.

“We had lots of officers come up and say ‘You're all good.’ Like, ‘This is cool.’ All the neighbours really liked us,” he said.

“We had people letting us use their hoses and helping us build ramps and borrow their power tools and stuff like that.”

That’s not how the town sees it.

It received complaints and the bylaw department found ramps and “graffiti” contravened the town’s clean yards bylaw.

“The property owners were required to clean up the graffiti and remove its contents to ensure they were in compliance with the bylaw,” said the town in a statement.

“The town is aware of the DIY skate park in the area, however, since the property is on private property, the arrangement of the skate park is between the property owner and the DIY skate park organizers and the town is unable to intervene.”

But Fraser said the skate park had become a haven for neighbourhood kids unable to skate in their neighbourhoods due to bylaws.

“It's like, ‘You can't stay here, go to the skate park’, and you'll be like, ‘Well, they're all closed. Like, where am I supposed to go?’ ” he said.

“And then they'll tell you to go to one place, you go to that place, the person who's there is like, ‘No, you can't do this here’ ... It’s just a never ending cycle. And there's really nowhere for these kids.”

While the town is planning a skate park at the Magna Centre, Fraser said it won’t be a good fit for everyone.

“All these kids who are on the complete opposite side of town are going to have little to no way to get over there,” he said.

“It's all for show. It's like the skate park looks nice. But like the ones that people are actually using, they're taking down.”

He feels the impromptu skate park allowed users to expand their skills and explore their artistic talents constructing and decorating the park.

“It was just like a really good environment for everybody,” he said.