Skateboarders vs. the City of Fredericton
By Sam G.
The wind billowing in the cloth draped around your body,
the creak of the seven plies of Maplewood underneath your rubber soled feet,
the distinct rumble of bearings cased in urethane as you push your way across the weathered asphalt.
For many, these stimuli are entirely unknown and neutral;
but for a skateboarder they are some of the happiest and most freeing things in the world.
Fredericton High School senior and skateboarding enthusiast Seger Dow can relate to these feelings. “There is no feeling that is more freeing than pushing down the street on your board.” Dow said. Dow is not alone amongst his peers in his love for this innovative and individualist sport as more and more youths across the globe have been taking an interest in skateboarding, especially in the capital city of Fredericton New Brunswick. With other New Brunswick cities such as Saint John and Moncton taking the initiative and constructing state of the art facilities to accommodate their growing populations of skateboarders it begs the question, why hasn’t the capital city followed suit and constructed a new park to replace the aging and outdated one located on Kimble Drive?
“When we (the skateboarders) first heard about the plans for the Grant Harvey Center we were excited because we assumed that a new concrete park would be included in the construction plans seeing as Saint John and Moncton had recently had parks built. So when the word got out that there were no such plans but rather plans had been drawn up for more tennis courts it really felt like a slap in the face for us.” Dow said. When it came out via Brad Woodside nearly two years ago that there would be a brand new tennis facility as well as a dog park included in the construction there was outrage amongst the skateboarders of the city as they felt that they were once again being treated as the lepers of the Fredericton recreational community. Although Woodside stated that he took the wishes of the public into consideration as he listened to people’s concerns in meetings that were open to the public there were legitimate questions raised about whether this was a fair means of garnering a true public opinion as the relatively young age of the majority of Fredericton’s skateboarders would likely mean that they were heavily underrepresented in these public city council meetings. Two years and one failed petition for a new park later and the skateboarders of Fredericton are still in search of someone who could bring them an updated skate park.
“ We are persecuted on a constant basis by the city as criminals for skateboarding on city property, this is a joke to begin with as I can’t say I recall the last time a kid was given a ticket for playing road hockey or kicking a ball around in the street. However if that kid decides to pick up a skateboard he instantly becomes a delinquent in the eyes of the cities judicial system rather than a child enjoying his youth. This unjust persecution wouldn’t be so hard to swallow if the city would just provide us with a properly designed facility where we could ply our craft. The tennis courts right next to the skate park on Kimble, which are perfectly fine, are seldom in continuous use while the skate park is constantly packed during the warmer months. It just baffles me how the city can be so obvious in displaying their disapproval of the sport we love” said Dow.
The municipal government doesn’t seem to be the only establishment in the city to be giving skateboarders the grief that they have become so accustomed to receiving. Fredericton High School, which boasts the largest student body in Canada, also harbours a disapproving attitude towards the sport according to past and present skateboarding alumni of the school.
“We have to hide our skateboards at all times in garbage bags or whatever else we can find because if a teacher sees it we’re likely to lose it” said Dow. This espionage like stance taken by skateboarders at school stems from the schools strict no skateboards on school property rules. Zenon Fedory, a veteran educator of the arts and former professional animator at FHS has seen his share of skateboards and their skateboarders pass through his classes over the years and he believes the school is not completely unfounded in taking this stance on skateboards. According to Fedory the school doesn’t have some kind of vendetta against skateboarding or those that love to do it as many of the skateboarders believe. “These rules were put in place as a kind of disclaimer by administration after a few kids got hurt on school property. It’s just so the school won’t have to deal with any legal repercussions if someone is injured as a result of a skateboard being on school property.”
In spite of this apparent disclaimer skateboarders still insist that these rules are born of an unwarranted belief that all skateboarders are delinquents and criminals. “Kids are still allowed to bring other sporting equipment to school such as a hockey stick. I would challenge that someone could be hurt just as bad with a stick or with a plethora of other sport supplies available in the gym. Why all the hypocrisy?” Said Dow.
As of this moment skateboarders are still persecuted for plying their craft in the majority of public areas and they are still without a properly updated skateboarding facility. It would seem the skateboarders of Fredericton still face quite the uphill struggle before their sport is legitimized in the eyes of most authority figures and establishments.