Community groups raising funds for permanent installation
The organizers of a temporary summer skatepark off Montreal Road are raising funds to give one of Vanier’s newest community assets a permanent home.
Every Wednesday night, volunteers assembled ramps and jumps in a parking lot at 270 Marier Ave. Kids without their own gear were able to borrow one of 35 skateboards and helmets at no charge.
Supported by a grant from the Vanier BIA as well as government funding and support from the Ottawa Skateboard Association, skate shop Birling and the Vanier Community Resource Centre, the temporary skatepark provided a new recreational opportunity for youth in the community and additional animation to one of Vanier’s main streets.
“It’s been so awesome,” said Jean-Michel Rousseau, the community coordinator for the program, Stay Active. “Originally, we did it as an after-school program (for kids) stay active, and it grew from there.”
The program initially started in school gyms, thanks to the Vanier Community Service Centre’s Stay Active program for youth. Once summer vacation began, Rousseau said the group was interested in continuing to skateboard. So they took the program outside.
“I was so surprised to see the amount of kids show up,” Rousseau said, adding they never publicized the event – it was simply word of mouth.
Rousseau says more donations are welcome as volunteers prepare to move indoors again to continue the program in the colder months.
“By the end of winter we will have close to 100 skaters,” he said. “We would like to have an indoor space that is available and open for everyone.”
While the skatepark was launched with youth in mind, the Wednesday night program proved to be a popular draw for adult skaters as well.
“Everyone is having fun and learning from each other,” Rousseau said.
Jordan Wells, a member of the Ottawa Skateboard Association, said the best part of the Vanier program is how accessible it is to the community.
“You have access to a helmet, skateboard, ramps, mentorship, free food, refreshments and a place to meet up with your friends,” Wells said.
He added that a skatepark – and skateboarding generally – is valuable for many youth because they can participate on their own or with friends, and meet new friends in the process.
“Through practice and reliance, skateboarding is a vessel to self-actualization and a great builder of self-esteem,” he said.
Rousseau said he’s working to build interest in building a skate park at Riverain Park, which will be undergoing redevelopment soon.
The Ottawa Skateboard Association, Wells said, is excited about this opportunity and has set its own $10,000 fundraising goal.
“We are already well on our way to reaching that,” he said.