An inquiry into skateboarding and skate parks in the ACT has been launched off the back of two petitions calling for makeovers of the ageing facilities at Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.
The Legislative Assembly’s Education and Inclusion Committee accepted the petitions and has decided to expand its scope to investigate skateboarding as an activity in the ACT and the state of skate park facilities. It will look at how easy or difficult it is for Canberrans to participate in skateboarding and use the skate parks, and what extra resources are needed.
The committee will investigate the current planning for and maintenance of skate parks, which petitioners say are ageing, run-down and unsafe. It also wants to examine the history of skateboarding, its role in Canberra’s cultural life and its relationship with other cultural activities such as art and music.
In January, when BMX rider Liam O’Connell launched the petition calling for upgrades to Gungahlin Skate Park, he said the ageing facility dated back to the 1990s and was in need of repair, citing exposed steel reinforcement in the concrete.
“The skatepark is really starting to show its age,” he said. “Not many people are enjoying riding there at the moment because the facilities are quite run down. If nothing is done, something will happen to one of us.”
Users also wanted lights installed to extend the hours skaters and BMX riders can use the park, especially in winter.
Another petition in February called for a comprehensive plan for the ongoing maintenance of Canberra’s skateparks, and the construction of new skate parks and skate-friendly spaces.
It specifically sought funding to construct a new, modern, world-class skate park in Tuggeranong to modernise the 25-year-old facility and cater to the growing population in the area.
Canberra Skateboarding Association vice president Brenden Wood said last year that, despite Canberra having a vibrant skating community, the facilities were not keeping pace. Mr Wood said Canberra had not had any new skate parks built in the past 10 years, despite constant expansion and new suburbs coming online.
But the Belconnen Skate Park is being refurbished and a new half-pipe is being built.
Committee chair Michael Pettersson, himself a skateboarder in his youth, said the petitions had highlighted issues but there was already community discussion about the state of the ACT’s skate parks and their locations in the ACT.
Mr Pettersson said he hope the committee members would inspect skate parks for themselves as well as rely on evidence from interested parties.
He said the ACT had a wide array of skating facilities, including Gungahlin and Yerrabi Pond in his electorate, that could use a “bit of TLC”.
“I’m keen for the committee to go out and see that skatepark [Yerrabi Pond] in particular but right across the ACT there are skating facilities that could potentially be due for upgrades,” he said.
Mr Pettersson added there were also some skate parks that were cutting edge such as Belconnen, which was considered one of the best in the country.
“So there’s some good news that we should talk and we should also look to see what we can improve,” he said.
Mr Pettersson said the skateboarding community also wanted the sport to be celebrated more. He said it had a rich culture and the activity was becoming increasingly mainstream and inclusive.
“People’s perception of what a skateboarder is is increasingly challenged,” he said.
It is also a great way to get active, stay fit and forge enduring friendships, he added.
Mr Pettersson said the committee wanted to hear from skateboarders and skate park users, family and friends, and also those who would like to take up the sport but feel there might be barriers stopping them.
The committee is calling for submissions that close on 23 June and is also conducting an online survey. To learn more and take the survey visit the committee’s website.