Nestled away in the suburbs of West Vancouver is a 2 decade old seaside skatepark, being one of the recreational amenities that Ambleside park offers. The skatepark was designed and built in the early 1990’s, replacing a public swimming pool. The city’s goal with the skatepark was to create a public space for youth. As skateboarding was becoming a mainstream recreational activity it made sense that there could be a public space to give West Vancouver’s youth a safe spot to skate and an opportunity to create their own sense of community.
The skateboard community at Ambleside or AMB, which it was quickly dubbed, was an immediate success. From completion of construction and through its early years AMB harbored a fantastic scene. The park had a wide variety skaters, with a variety skills and styles. A handful of the skaters at AMB went on to have amateur and professional careers that took them to southern California – the epicenter of skateboard industry. AMB not only became a space for skateboarding but skateboarding itself became a medium for some locals to develop and hone both photography and filmography talents. On any given day through the 90’s and early 2000’s, filmers and photographers were present at the park documenting the skating and the culture that was unfolding.
By the mid 2000’s skateboarding had become very mainstream, and municipalities all around the lower mainland were seeing the value in creating a skatepark in their community. The original design and method of construction at Ambleside although at it’s time very innovative, had fallen behind in terms of what it could offer with comparison to the flurry of new parks that were being built and used.
By the mid 2000’s the skate scene at AMB had died off and the new generation of skaters on the North Shore were opting out of using the park as it was outdated in all respects with comparison to newer municipal skatepark projects. Not only has the park become outdated in design, but the elements have taken a tole on the premises. The park is filled with divets, cracks, and rough ground that make it nearly impossible to skate across, but also dangerous, as many skaters catch their wheels in the cracks, sending them into the asphalt.
From the perspective of someone who doesn’t skateboard or who hasn’t had any exposure to skateboard culture, it is understandable that one could hold the belief that this project would be of little or no value to the community and it’s youth. However, the unique and valuable nature of skateboarding is that the relatively minimal expense of gear required allows access for youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds the chance to begin skating. As it is an individualistic sport and without the existence of teams, there bears no schedule to adhere to. The amount of time to work on skill and progression becomes unlimited. Skateboarders truly get out what they put in. This aspect of skating transfers over later in life, developing into entrepreneurial traits, strong work ethic, and a good sense of community.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of AMB for many youth is that the culture of skateboarding, and the park itself, provide a productive and safe arena for members of the community to form bonds that transpire past the world of skating. The park is a positive place for youth to go when things at home are tough, or if socially marginalized from other social groups. The nature of the skate culture is very inclusive because of its lack of barriers to entry with respect to age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. Allowing those from all walks of life to come together for a positive reason.
The skatepark as it stands today does not facilitate a modern and safe skatepark for the North Shore’s youth.
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