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Innisfail goes alone to open up skatepark

Town admits risks but has faith rules will be followed
WEB Skateboarder 3 May 2020
Jayce Downs, 18, performs a skateboarding trick over a garbage can at the old skatepark facility near Centennial Park on May 12. Like many other of the town's young he has been anxiously awaiting the opening of the new skatepark facility near the Innisfail and District Historical Village. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Admitting it’s a gamble and pushing the limits of public safety the Emergency Management Committee has given the green light to open the new million-dollar skatepark for the public as part of the town’s response to the province’s Stage 1 pandemic relaunch.

Innisfail is the only town in the region to reopen a skatepark facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olds, Sundre and Carstairs have opted not to open up their skateparks at this time. The two skateparks in Red Deer were opened on May 8, while the future opening date of its BMX facility is now being discussed with the Red Deer BMX Club.

The formal decision to open Innisfail’s skatepark facility on May 15 was made during the committee’s online meeting on May 14.

The committee also green lighted the May 15 opening for the off-leash dog park, Anthony Henday Campground, Innisfail RV Sani-Dump and Dodd's Lake. As well, local sports fields and tennis courts are opening, likely during last weekend or soon after. All facilities will have appropriate pandemic awareness signage, and must follow provincial social distancing COVID-19 guidelines. Playgrounds will remain closed.

But it was the skatepark that triggered the most passionate discussion with committee members, which included all six council members, along with key administration staff, including CAO Todd Becker and Gary Leith, the town’s manager of fire and protective services.

“It’s going to be pushing the limits no doubt, and that is why we will be doing a public appeal to the public and the parents attending the skateboard park that we have to count on peer pressure to maintain these (social) distancing things,” said mayor Jim Romane. “Kids are kids and they do need supervision. If there is someone there to keep an eye on them that is all that’s needed. They will go along with it just for the simple reason of getting the park open for use.”

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Becker said community peace officers would make regular visits to the skatepark to ensure users are working towards compliance. He said the visits would have a strong educational component for users. Becker added there is an obligation of users and the public to ensure there is proper social distancing at all times.

“It is a bit of a gamble,” said Romane. “It’s a trial. Let’s see how the kids are. Hopefully they don’t screw it up for everybody and they have to close the damn thing again.

“Personally I think they will be pretty conscious of things,” said the mayor. “There are some good kids that will prevail. I think it will work out.”

He noted the biggest issue for the skatepark is that it’s a “hangout for kids” and there will be many more attending the facility than the provincial guideline of 15 who can gather at any given time.

“If there is a shortage of space and kids can’t get on with skateboards we will have to monitor the number there who aren’t even skateboarding,” said Romane.

As for the reopening of town hall to the public, Becker said administration is working on a risk assessment over the next week or two, along with the preventative measures it would have to put in place.

“We will know more (this) week. The plan is working towards having some public access to the administration building. What that looks like we don’t know right now,” said Becker.

Meanwhile, the committee also agreed to maintain the state of local emergency (SOLE), as recommended by administration, and despite objections from Coun. Glen Carritt who noted that with the province now beginning to let businesses open there was no need to keep SOLE.