Interview with Ty Smith, Coordinator of the Summer at the Skatepark Program: Free Drop In Skateboarding coaching in Castlegar, BC
When was Castlegar Skatepark built?
The Castlegar Rotary Skatepark was completed in 2003 and was designed by Spectrum Skatepark Creations.
How was the park received?
In the beginning, the park was a huge step forward for the Castlegar skateboarding scene, but there was not a plan in place for skatepark activities and programming. The community, the Castlegar and District Recreation Center, RCMP and the city were struggling with many of the issues in and around the park. This created tension between the city and skaters, and surveillance equipment was installed.
In late 2009, I joined with the above organizations, along with Kootenay Family Place, to discuss what could be done to change the current skatepark culture. Luckily, we were able to get community support for the skatepark and positive changes started to occur through the formation of Friends of the Castlegar Skatepark.
How did you approach the non-profit organization you work for about introducing the Drop In To Skateboarding program?
Kootenay Family Place is a registered non-profit organization with charitable status committed to serving the needs of children and families throughout the West Kootenay Boundary region. In 2011, KFP was looking for another program to support our youth. After some preliminary talks a plan was made to apply for funding from BC Gaming. These funds would allow for free skateboard lessons at the Castlegar Rotary Skatepark.
What were the first classes like?
The program began in the Summer of 2011 with a gradual increase in participants over that Summer. Many skaters who learned the basics became hooked and continued to participate throughout the summer.
Why has it been successful?
Most importantly, it is having the necessary dollars to cover the instructor wages. Plus the program provided skateboards, safety gear, one on one coaching, steady hours and it is free of cost. On top of that, the daily updates on the Friends of the Castlegar Skatepark page generated a sense of excitement that the skatepark was a happening place.
Companies/organizations such as Skull Skates, S-One Helmets, Spectrum Skatepark Creations, sk8shoes4kids, Central City Shoes and Mountainfm.net have been 100% behind the idea of bringing the opportunity of skateboarding to everyone.
Has it improved the atmosphere of the park?
Yes! Having mentors/coaches at the skatepark 5 days a week, 6 hours a day has re-energized this public facility. Parents are socializing and spending time watching their children progress. Local skaters are supportive of the younger skaters taking up skateboarding. The local media attention for the Castlegar Skatepark has helped greatly in promoting the positive benefits of skateboarding as lifestyle choice.
How many participants?
In 2011, we had 130 people access the Summer program. When the 2012 program ended we had 190 participants from all around the Kootenay’s and beyond.
Future plans about branching out to other communities?
For now we are going to work to streamline the program in Castlegar. We are working on continuing the free lessons throughout the year at the Kinnaird Youth Indoor Skatepark pending funding.
As more communities show interest we will offer to guide them in the process of promoting positive programming for their local skateparks.