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Skate park project garnering support

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A skate park, proposed by the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club last week, has received the “thumbs up” from several interested parties who all agree it’s what the community needs for local youth.

“You could see how much the little park was used in the summer,” said Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, referring to the pieces of equipment that were set up on the Memorial Sports Centre parking lot on a trial basis.

“It’s really something that’s needed,” added the mayor, who had pledged to establish a skate park here during the municipal election campaign in 2000.

“It would sure be a benefit to business,” said Gord McQuarrie, owner of Skates & Blades here, adding the popularity of skateboarding, BMX freestyle, and in-line skating seems at an all-time high right now.

“I’ve been selling skateboards for the past seven years and in that time, I’ve sold about 100 in total,” he noted. “More recently, I’ve probably sold 500.

“The skateboard business, as a whole, is nuts,” he remarked.

McQuarrie also referred to the trial run skate park as an indicator of the craze.

“There was only four pieces of equipment that were actually part of the set-up. The rest the kids brought themselves to expand the experience,” he said.

“It’s all about ‘extreme’ sports. As long it’s ‘extreme,’ whether it’s the skateboarding, roller-blading, or BMX, the kids will be wanting to do it,” added McQuarrie.

Fort Frances OPP S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis said the police would fully support having such a park here.

“I think it’s wonderful for the kids,” he stressed. “It’s a way for the kids to use their skateboards or their trick bikes in a safe place, where they won’t be crowding the sidewalks, or endangering themselves or the public.

“If we don’t have something like this, the kids question, ‘Where can I go?’ If we get this, we’ll be providing a safe environment as an answer to that question,” S/Sgt. Dennis added.

Steve Maki, past president of the local Kiwanis Club and the one spearheading the committee that was struck in response to the town’s invitation to all local service clubs to get involved in establishing a skate park here, said the plans are just starting to develop.

“What I want to do right now is find out what’s available and find out the costs involved,” he said. “Then we’ll look into grant applications, and just how much we have to raise.”

“There’s a definite need. You saw all the kids out [at the Memorial Sports Centre] all summer,” Maki remarked. “The kids are out on the street and we want to give them something to do.

“I’m sure if we had one, there would be 20 kids there at any given time.”

The proposed skate park would be located on the corner of Second Street East and Reid Avenue.

“It’s a perfect location,” Maki enthused. “[The] Lion’s Park is across the street. Mom could come with the kids and be right there, playing with the younger ones at the park while the others are at the skate park.

“Make it a real family outing.”

Maki noted the committee will work with Megan Ross, the town’s physical education director, who did some research for council on establishing a skate park here earlier this year.

“Mayor Witherspoon promised this some time ago so we’re hoping to get as much co-operation as possible,” said Maki. “And anyone else who wants to send us money, bring it on down.

“It’s gonna take the winter to jump through the hoops,” he admitted. “Our intention is to break ground first thing in the spring. We want to get it done quick—cut through the bureaucracy.”

Maki said developments could happen as soon as the committee’s next meeting later this week.

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