Council hypocrisy evident in bike park debate
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 02, 2013 06:00 am
If city council wants to discourage young people from ever again approaching the city with its own grassroots initiative, then councillors should simply go ahead and vote down the Liberton Park location for the mountain bike skills park.
If, on the other hand, it wants to walk the talk and do exactly what it says it wants to – build assets in and encourage youth – then they should bring back Monday’s motion at its next meeting and pass it without delay.
Mayor Nolan Crouse’s motion Monday night to postpone the decision for six months was a strategic move, as allowing what looked like a 4-3 vote against the park’s location at Liberton would have delayed it for years, if not killed it outright. But if, as it appeared later in the week, some councillors have changed their minds, why wait the additional six months?
The city has budgeted $200,000 for the park’s design and construction. The group of young people spearheading the project has stated that once a location is decided, it will conduct some fundraising for the park.
What is interesting in all of this is the completely confused message some members of council are giving the youth in this community. On the one hand, they want to empower young people in St. Albert, but on the other hand they don’t want to pay for everything.
Consider this pair of quotes from Coun. Cam MacKay, who said he was ready to vote against the Liberton Park location. After first reminiscing about the days when young people built their own bike jumps, MacKay said of the proposed project, “The one thing I guess I have a tough time getting around is, at one point youth used to do things on their own and now they keep coming to the city lobbying. I would like to see youth do things on their own.”
Now late last year, when city council was debating the budget and the subject of funding a youth festival came up, MacKay said the following:
“I’d like to see some grassroots community involvement before we put together a business case.”
There have been few projects in recent memory in St. Albert as “grassroots” as the bike park. This was the original idea of a small group of local youth who approached the city with an idea that gained some traction. It has been almost four years in the making. But how are any community initiatives supposed to get started if councillors such as MacKay want the people responsible to build it themselves?
Let’s not forget one of the reasons councillors turned down planning an extreme proposed sports park during budget deliberations was because the bike park was on the books. And as for a youth festival? If the city builds this park, the “synergy,” to use a word popular with councillors between a potential festival and mountain biking, will be immediately apparent.
Shelving the park for a few years will reinforce to our youth that the city is not interested in what they want in their own city. Perhaps Crouse’s pause will help some councillors see the wisdom of moving forward, but that wisdom should be immediately apparent.