Bike skills park on life support

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Decision postponed for six months over location concerns

Mayor Nolan Crouse is challenging councillors who don’t feel a bike skills park belongs in Liberton Park to find a better location.

Rather than watch four years of work and $200,000 of proposed funding disappear in what appeared to be a losing vote, Crouse instead pushed through a motion that bought the park a six-month grace period.

“We can tell it’s contentious in the community, it’s contentious on council. Let’s give it the good old college try one last time,” Crouse implored.

Before June 24, Crouse wants councillors and city staff to visit all of the 34 sites that administration explored as a possible location for the park.

“Let’s make sure that those (34) sites are wrong or right. Each councillor weigh in on them. Smell them, touch them, visit them. Council has to set the direction on this one,” Crouse said.

He also wants each councillor to sit down with staff to address any questions or concerns they have and he wants the city to listen to the concerns of residents around Liberton.

Without Crouse’s motion, building the park at Liberton seemed doomed to fail as only Crouse and Couns. Wes Brodhead and Len Bracko voiced support of the park. Couns. Cam MacKay, Cathy Heron, Malcolm Parker and Roger Lemieux all pointed to concerns about parking for vehicles, the impact on residents near the park, losing tobogganing space and poor esthetics.

MacKay also intimated he wanted to see the young people involved in the project do more on their own.

“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,” MacKay said. “I would like to see youth do things on their own.”

But the central issue of the debate was location, beginning with the second proposed site at Seven Hills in Mission. Roughly a half-dozen speakers asked council to locate the park at Liberton, citing Mission’s historical significance as well as its proximity to Ecole Father Jan. An agreement between the Archdiocese of Edmonton and St. Albert dated 1910 also appears to prohibit construction of any infrastructure at Seven Hills.

“I know there are hundreds of supporters of this (bike) park but I would state there are thousands, I may suggest tens of thousands, who would be opposed to the former proposed location of this park on Mission Hill,” said Rosaleen McEvoy, chair of the board for Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools.

As proposed, the $200,000-park would feature several different amenities for varying levels of skills, from cross-country trails to jumps and other features.

A common critique of the city’s public consultation process was that postcards sent to surrounding residents and ads placed in the paper in advance of two November 2012 public hearings did not list either Mission or Liberton as locations.

Monique St. Louis, St. Albert director of recreation services, said the results from its consultation showed Mission was by far the more popular of the two sites. Both she and several speakers pointed out such a park requires hills or varied topography.

“We want this to appeal to all types of riders but a lot of them are downhill riders,” said Brady van Keulen, who has been involved with the project.

The delay will likely push construction of the park until 2014, even if a location is approved in June. A detailed design still needs to be developed, and construction is estimated to take four to eight weeks.

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