To The Mayor Of Victoria,
Your Honour, I am writing this letter in regards to the criminal breeding ground that is commonly known as a Skateboarding Park. I live in the Vic West area and have observed more crime taking place in this “Recreational Park” than in the downtown core as a whole. From first thing in the morning until well after dark, criminals and drug addicts mix with impressionable youths influencing them to vandalize and harass the respectable members of this community. As you are aware, the violent crime and vandalism rates have increased since the construction of the VicWest Park; the most evident example of this is the trail of vandalized bus shelters and spray paint as you drive down Esquimalt road leading to the taxpayer funded concrete monstrosity which itself is littered with the same graffiti. This lack of respect for the structure and community is evidence and reason for its destruction or for the need for legislation to be brought in place to outlaw the gathering of youths for the purpose of skate boarding.
My opinion may seem controversial but I stand firm in my believe that the area has been misused and it is doing the town more harm than good. It may take youths skateboarding out of the downtown core but the park brings youths to a neighborhood that is struggling with high densities of low income citizens and the symptoms associated with that classification. The image of a skateboarder is that of a rebel, someone that goes against the grain, combine that rebellious idealism with a low income environment, where drugs like alcohol or marijuana are more readily available, and what you have is a melting pot of peer-pressure, the naivety of youth and the availability of drugs. Skateboarding is exclusively, with the exception of maybe curling, the only sport that the participator can be drunk or smoking a cigarette while competing. When I walk through the Victoria West Park’s field and past the skateboard park the area is littered with cigarette butts and beer cans, which bring more derelicts to collect this waste. They are the only members of the public that make money from having the park in the neighborhood. If there were something else there in its place perhaps the community could generate some income from the real estate. Perhaps the structure of the park could be reused for a foundation of a community center with supervision and guidance for the teens well being.
A community center or a YMCA is where I spent my years growing up. We played real sports like basketball, swimming or bowling. In the winter we played hockey with referees to keep us in line and following the rules but with skateboarding there are no referees to blow the whistle when someone steps out of line which leads to bullying and gang violence to settle disputes. If drugs or alcohol were found on the premises of the community center adults could deal with the individuals involved while at the skate parks it is the adults that are supplying the narcotics and they know exactly where the most vulnerable can be found. As the cliché goes, idle hands are the devil’s play thing, when youths are not learning useful skills they are lead astray into delinquent and devious acts. With a community center, closer tabs could be kept on what our children are doing and who is influencing their decisions. Positive role models would be looked up to instead of whoever is the “coolest” or “most groovy” skateboarder in the park. I will admit that some of the maneuvers done in skateboarding are intricate but they lack the coordination and grace of sports such as swimming or diving. The injuries that occur at the skateboard park are a liability to the city and are far more dangerous than those that take place in organized sports.
If you were to ask a physician about the injuries they have encountered related to skateboarding they would tell you brutal horror stories from broken femurs to serious head injuries. A physician would also stress that encouraging this type of behavior is bordering on criminal negligence. The city’s reputation and liability are at stake if this sport is not, at least, frowned upon or, at best, outlawed. How many lawsuits have been filed on the city due to skateboarding injuries since the skateboarding park was created? The private sector has learned from years of legal battles that by not allowing skateboarders to use your property you avoid these liability disputes and can afford to hire a security guard, who will enforce the rules and patrol the property, with the money saved from law suites. The City could learn a lesson from this and use their security guards, the police, to patrol the property of the taxpayer and prevent having to pay financial settlements. You may think that this will take away from the important work our police force has to do currently but I see it as nipping the problem in the bud, preventing the would-be criminals from congregating and teaching them a lesson early on in life before the go down the wrong path indefinitely. A fine should be implemented as punishment and the proceeds could to go to the police force to absorb the added burden of having to write them. Downtown has been designated a “Red Zone”, meaning that anyone caught skateboarding in the downtown core is subject to a fine, I propose the entire Greater Victoria Area be designated a “Red Zone”.
Some may disagree with this policy, those that see skate parks as an equalizer where all classes can join together as one, but to those people I point to the evidence of injuries, litter, violence and drug use that is bred at sites like these. It is only a matter of time before there is an incident in which a youth is either seriously injured or killed because of the issues surrounding the existence of the VicWest Skatepark, an incident that the city will be liable for. This problem needs to be dealt with either with the closing of the park or by transferring the responsibility and maintenance to an independent organization that will accept the onus if such an accident would occur. As a taxpayer and member of the community, I believe that my hard earned dollars should be spent in a more responsible manner than to allow such a safety hazard like this to remain open.
Along with my concerns I have given numerous suggestions for what could or can be done to rid our city of this menace that we call a skate park. A summation of these suggestions are that the structure could be used a foundation for a community center, the park could be sold to a private organization, private security guards or the police could patrol the park on a regular basis, and the entire skateboard park could be destroyed. The reasons are numerous but the overall outcome is a necessity. Skateboarding is a fad and it’s popularity will decrease, what I am asking for is that you speed this decline by ridding the facility in which it synergistically depends on. This will not only benefit the community but increase the overall safety of the population. I thank you for taking the time to consider my proposal.
A Concerned Citizen.*
*The views expressed in this letter are not that of the Authour