Airdrie skateboarders have a Grade 7 student to thank for bringing the need for a second local skate park to City council’s attention.
Since September 2020, the City of Airdrie has been drafting plans to develop a second skate park in the community. At the Sept. 21, 2020 council meeting, Mayor Peter Brown brought forward a notice of motion for City staff to investigate the feasibility of constructing a second skatepark in Airdrie, with a focus on the east side of the city.
However, according to Brown, it was a local middle school student last year who first brought the issue to his attention.
“He did a lot of work – he got a lot of his friends and other skateboarders in the community to rally behind him,” Brown said. “He worked hard to get a petition going and really pushed us.”
The student in question is 12-year-old Diwan Deo, a Grade 7 student at Meadowbrook Middle School. Last year, when learning about local government in social studies, he said he had an assignment that tasked him with coming up with a way to improve his city.
As an avid skateboarder, Deo said his idea for the assignment was for another skate park in Airdrie. Currently, the city's only skate park is in Chinook Winds Regional Park.
“I really like going to the skate park, but I live on the east side of Airdrie,” he said. “The skate park at Chinook Winds is seven kilometres away [from my house]. You always have to organize a ride to get there, and if you try to go there, it’s 14 kilometres, round trip.”
Considering the popularity of Airdrie’s existing skate park, Deo said he thought having a skate spot in the southeast quadrant would be beneficial to help keep crowds down.
“Kings Heights and Meadowbrook are really large communities with lots of kids living in them, including a bunch of my friends who scooter, skateboard, BMX or rollerblade,” he said. “In the skate park, there can be up to 100 people at once there in the summertime, so I thought it would be a really good idea.”
With the encouragement of his teacher, Deo said he and some of his friends drafted an electronic petition last year for the City to consider a second skate park in Airdrie. He said the petition ultimately garnered more than 540 signatures.
Since then, Deo has spoken to City councillors, the mayor and Director of Community Infrastructure Lorne Stevens, regarding possible locations for a second skate park in Airdrie.
“It’s awesome,” said Brown, of liaising with local youth. “They’re the future of this community and I always preach to all of them when I have the opportunity to talk to kids – the first thing you want to do is be involved and be a difference maker, and Diwan is a difference maker.”
Deo’s lobbying to City officials paid off in March, when Archie Lang, the manager of the parks and public works department, came to council with two potential options for a skate park on the east side of the city – a 1.6-acre plot of land in East Lake Regional Park adjacent to Genesis Place Recreation Centre, and a 0.8-acre plot of land in Highlands Industrial Park, north of Veterans Boulevard.
According to Lang’s report, the project is still in the very early stages, as a new skate park would require a feasibility study, needs assessment and public engagement process. He said it would likely cost about $2 million and take at least three years to come to fruition.
Deo said he was excited when he learned his idea had made it to the City council level, and added he thinks the site by Genesis Place would be the best option.
“Genesis seems like the most popular one because it has all the amenities and things you need for a skate park,” he said. “It has washrooms and would bring in more money for Genesis Place.”
Having seen first-hand what can be accomplished with some dedicated lobbying efforts, Deo said he encourages other Airdrie youth to reach out to the municipality with any ideas they may have to improve the community.
“There are a lot of people who enjoy different things in Airdrie,” he said.
“If you want something, all it takes is initiative and hard work and you can get what you want.”