Bike park anger boils over
Residents voice opposition to skills park at Liberton Park
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 16, 2013 06:00 am
Residents of Lacombe Park are emphatic in their support for a city-built mountain bike skills park, but they oppose building it on an existing green space like Liberton Park.
Concern over the fate of the park and anger over their belief the city did not consult homeowners around it bubbled to the surface at a public meeting Thursday night as approximately 150 residents crammed into the Lacombe clubhouse to make their voices heard.
While there were a couple of voices of support for the project, estimated to cost the city $200,000, the overwhelming majority of those who spoke said they do not want their park ruined for a bike park to be put in its place.
“What we are concerned about is the proposed design … virtually blocks all access, all the walkways down to the main thoroughfare at the bottom of the hill,” said resident Jessica Link. “If it doesn’t block it, it renders it pretty darn dangerous in our point of view.”
The bike skills park has been on the city’s ledger since 2009, but the difficulty has been finding a place to build it. The park, which would feature trails, jumps and specialized tracks, was the brainchild of a group of youth in the community with whom the city has worked to bring the project to fruition.
Liberton was one of two locations selected by city staff. Seven Hills was rejected by council due to its proximity to Ecole Father Jan and the hill’s historical significance.
But a common complaint among residents of both Mission and Lacombe Park was that there was no mention of the two locations in advertising that city published in November 2012 to inform residents of open houses where they could share their opinions. As a result, they claim, few people actually attended.
Numerous residents of Lacombe Park, especially those with properties bordering Liberton, say they were never consulted by the city.
That led residents of Lacombe Park to organize their own consultation on Thursday night. Every member of council except Coun. Roger Lemieux was on hand to listen.
Joanne Lewis, who lived near Liberton and now lives in North Ridge, said the city needs to protect its green space.
“We have no trees, no birds and I really wish we did. It’s absolutely thrilling to me,” said Lewis.
Among the concerns raised were the fate of tobogganing at the hill if equipment is built there, potential vandalism, noise and other illegal activities, access to washrooms, the effect on home values, the aesthetic appeal and who would be liable if people hurt themselves at the park.
Some implored those in attendance not to vilify the city’s young people but to give them an opportunity to become engaged citizens. Dave Edwards, a teacher at Bellerose, reminded the crowd that the city has many green spaces but no bike park.
“I love the idea of a place where a youth can go and be a youth and I don’t think we have too many spots like that here,” Edwards said.
“Cry me a river,” someone from the crowd shouted in response.
Even the St. Albert Taxpayers Association jumped into the fray, saying that because young people and young adults don’t pay property taxes typically, the burden of paying for the park falls on older residents.
“We pay the dollars,” Gord Hennigar, president of the Taxpayers Association, said. “This project will benefit a very small special interest group at the expense of many.”
St. Albert was scheduled to select a site for the park in January but deferred the motion until councillors have a chance to visit the three dozen sites the city originally surveyed and share their thoughts with city staff. Council is set to revisit its motion on June 24.