Feature: How SOS helped skateboarders ride again at Victoria Park in Leamington
When skateboarders took to the brand new skatepark at Victoria Park in Leamington last week it was somewhat of a dream come true for those who had spent five years trying to make it happen.
In 2011 the half pipe at the park, the go-to place for many skaters from in and around the town, was removed by Warwick District Council for health and safety reasons and those who had used it regularly were left in the dark as to whether anything would replace it.
Speaking this week having used the facility on days previously, Alex Walker recalled the time when as a 22-year-old trainee youth worker he set about starting the campaign, which he led over the years to have something new, improved and better put in place for he and his fellow skaters.
“I had no clue what we could do,” said Alex.
“I was punching well above my weight and it was just a case of ‘let’s just give it a go and see what happens”
Alex approached the district council and was pointed in the direction of sources of funding.
But finding the financial backing and a viable design for the skate park was not the only hurdle faced by Alex and Save our Skatepark (SOS) team he formed with friends.
At the time Skateboarding was yet to be commissioned as an Olympic sport and facilities such as the former half pipe had a stigma about them regarding graffiti, litter and anti-social behaviour from youngsters congregating at them and there was a concern the authority might be happy to be shot of a potentially troublesome site.
Alex said: “Councillor Sue Gallagher was a contact I had gained through work and she acted as a mediator because we were about concerns over litter and graffiti.
“But once people saw the group were young professionals trying to make a change for young people it changed the minds of those who might have had a more archaic view.”
In the weeks, months and years that followed funding applications were made to the likes of recycling and resource management company SITA, the environmental body WREN, waste management company Biffa and different council bodies.
Alex said: “We had to continuously show that what we were doing was worthwhile .
“We ran an event over in Kenilworth with Ripride Skate Shop and got everybody to come over for that and showed that if we could get more than 100 people at that facility we could potentially get even more at a better one.
“We didn’t want it to come across as just a vanity project for a bunch of older skateboarders.”
Confirmation of the funding needed for the park to be built was received in October last year and the park opened last week for skateboarders, BMX and scooter riders, inline skaters, and more.
An Opening Jam will be held there tomorrow (Saturday) from 11am to 4pm dependant on weather.
There will be prize giveaways and pros from the Creature Team and Get Lesta.
There will also be street art from Andy and Michael of Spraystation, Coventry.
Alex said: “I’m really happy. “The skatepark has been busy every day I’ve been down there and everybody I speak to loves it.
“It’s brought a real feel good factor to Victoria Park.”
**** The project to build the skatepark was a joint effort between SOS which obtained a grant of £60,000 from the SUEZ Communities Trust and Warwick District Council which provided £50,000.
Ripride Skate Shop in Leamington was also a supporter.
Cllr Dave Shilton, portfolio holder for neighbourhood services, said: “This is a fantastic facility and shows what community groups can achieve.
“Thank you to Suez for providing the grant, thank you to all the skaters involved in the project and thank you to neighbourhood services staff in delivering this project.
“It shows what can be gained by working in partnership.”
The skate park was constructed by Canvas Spaces with the design a collaboration between SOS and its team of designers to ensure it is the park wanted by the community.
It is now hoping to have floodlights installed at the skate park by winter 2017.
It is also planning to campaign for a new facility to replace the old ramps at St Nicholas Park in Warwick.