KW to open BMX park

Waterloo officials have narrowed down three possible locations for the construction of a new action sports park to accommodate the growing number of skateboarders, inline skaters and BMX bikers in the city. With a budget of $400,000 and a partnership between the City of Waterloo and a landscape consulting company, the project is expected to be complete in the fall.

“We’ve hired consultants because for these [parks] it’s so specialized … really there are only a few design teams in Canada that do it,” explained Karen Anderson, landscape architect for the City of Waterloo.

The new park will take pressure off of the public square in Uptown Waterloo, among other areas, where skateboarders have been gathering since it opened last summer.
“I think that’s kind of what drove politicians to realize that we have a potential issue,” said Mark van der Zalm of Van der Zalm and Associates, the landscape consulting company working on the project.

A meeting held at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex last Thursday provided a forum for residents to voice their concerns and fill out surveys to tell city council which location they thought would best fit the new park.

There were questions and concerns raised by those in attendance regarding each proposed location, including the large volume of traffic around Erb and Caroline Street and Waterloo Park’s lack of washroom facilities.

Some concerns were brought up about residents choosing a location that would best fit a young demographic of athletes, despite a great number being in attendance at the meeting.

“Often the younger generation don’t get their word heard by the older generations … but these kids put a lot of time into it; it’s a great hobby,” said Howard Jones, who has been a Waterloo resident for 40 years.

The park will cater to beginner, intermediate and advanced freestyle BMX bikers, inline skaters and skateboarders.

“Professionals can ride the same stuff as beginners, they just do different tricks … it’ll be all ages, all skill levels,” said van der Zalm, whose company has built over 150 action sports parks throughout North America.

Although van der Zalm admits that there has been historically a negative connotation to skate parks, he is sure residents will be pleasantly surprised with the aesthetics of the park.

“They’re very modern, they’re very beautiful, they’re very urban-looking and highly detailed,” said van der Zalm.

The input of the public taken during the meeting and through an online survey on the City of Waterloo website will be combined with a detailed report to be reviewed by the council, who will ultimately have the final decision as to the park’s location.

“The ultimate decision is by council,” said Anderson. “Sometimes they don’t agree with our recommendations; we just hope that we’re all on the same page.”

According to van der Zalm, skateboarding and BMX biking are among the fastest growing areas of recreation in North America, and the new skate park will fulfill Waterloo’s need for a facility.

“I see this being a huge success,” said van der Zalm. “It will be successful if it’s anything like other Canadian metropolitan cities that we’ve built in.”

Possible park venues

Father David Bauer Lot
–Across the street from the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex

Erb St. and Caroline St.
–Across the street from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Waterloo Park East
–West of Seagram Stadium

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