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Skate park too extreme for Dartmouth? 

Some local skaters aren’t too stoked with Dartmouth Skate Coalition’s plans.

click to enlarge Greg Baller gnars it up. - RILEY SMITH
  • Greg Baller gnars it up.

It's going to be built, but how the Dartmouth skate park will be used still remains up in the air.

Just last week the city awarded Ocean Contractors Ltd. the $448,000 tender for the project, which will be built on the Dartmouth Common, across from the Sportsplex.

That's pretty exciting for Greg Baller. As an expert skater, and one of the organizers of the Dartmouth Skate Coalition, he's been working with HRM for the last two years to get something built. "This is a huge opportunity to get a world-class skateboard park," he says.

But some of his peers in the skater community aren't so sure. "The core group that should have been consulted weren't," skateboarder Nate Oliver says about the park's design process. "It's not going to be as good of a use of money as it should have been."

Oliver, along with several other skateboarders The Coast spoke with, believe the DSC wants a park designed to such extreme difficulty levels that it will only be usable by a handful of older, experienced skaters in town. It's not a criticism Baller shies away from.

"We're trying to make a skateboard park that is challenging and will remain challenging for a long time to come," he says. "We're not worrying so much about the five-year-old scooter kid who thinks they know what they're talking about."

The Skate Coalition is directly funding the park's construction through their owncommunity fundraising efforts. The volunteer-run group is required by HRM to pay $100,000 of the park's nearly $450,000 price tag. Baller says they've got about $70,000 to go. Another $100,000 is coming from a provincial grant, with the remaining cost from the city.

"It's frustrating to think a process like this could be a problem for anyone," Baller says of his skater haters. "The nature of skateboarding is to adapt and react to the terrain around you."

That can be difficult when you can't see the terrain. An easy way to judge the park's use, one way or another, would be to look at what's being planned. But no one wants to release any designs. The city's procurement office, access and privacy officer and the park's project manager all refuse to release the initial sketch to the public. It's too preliminary, they say, and might falsely represent what the finished park will look like. Ocean, which will be working with Seattle, Washington's Grindline Skateparks on the final design, also says nothing's yet set in stone.

Luckily, a few details can be imagined based on the initial Request For Proposal, which called for a "modern, progressive" concrete park with a blend of "bowl complexes, transitions and street features." The RFP requested the bowl be 10 or 11 feet, at its deepest end. It also asked for a range of difficulties in the design, "to allow for different levels of rider abilities."

"The four larger, newer skateparks in Halifax already have bowls that sit unused most of the time," says Oliver. "The design of the Dartmouth park needs to be reflective of the people who want to use it, and the surrounding community."

"Per square foot, the usage [bowls] get compared to street sections, it's not even comparable," adds another street skater who preferred to remain nameless. "You're basically using taxpayer money to fund your personal dreams."

Again, Baller doesn't see that charge as a negative.

"It's really just to please ourselves," he says. "It's very self-serving to be able to organize and get a skateboard park as we're the ultimate user. It's pretty awesome."

The DSC is hoping to break ground come spring, with surfaces ready for skating once summer hits. The Coalition will be fundraising throughout the winter, so Baller hopes everyone remains pumped about skating's future in Dartmouth.

"I don't want disharmony in what should be a wonderful celebration of the fact that we're getting another skateboard park," he says. "This isn't about anything but building rad things to skateboard on." a

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