Local skater Brandon Kautzman participates in the annual Mike McInnes Memorial skateboard competition on Canada Day at the Sportsplex skatepark. After the success of a pilot project implemented this past summer, the city hopes to implement a new initiative that would see more supervision at the park. Mirror File Photo

City of Campbell River will look to fully implement skatepark leaders program

Report from pilot project shows significant reduction in ‘negative behaviours’ when leaders are around

A pilot project that saw “Skatepark Leaders” hired by the City of Campbell River to be on-site at the Sportsplex Skatepark this summer dramatically improved the environment at the facility, according to a report presented to city council this week.

Recreation and Culture Manager Lynn Wark’s report says that the pilot project, which was assigned $15,000 during the 2018 budget deliberations, was in response to a “growing number of incidents and complaints about the skatepark.”

So as of July 19 this year, the Skatepark Leaders would attend the facility at various times for varying lengths of time, “to create a situation where users wouldn’t know when to expect them at the skatepark.”

The city hoped that by having these leaders on-site, it would “reduce negative behaviours,” as well as help facilitate and encourage skills development, promote a culture of friendliness and inclusivity and act as a kind of liason between park users and city staff.

And it seemingly worked to do just that.

The two leaders held three skateboarding camps throughout the summer – two of which were full and had waitlists – and the feedback from park users in a survey conducted in the final two weeks of the program, Wark says, show that park users acted more responsibly, reducing the number of negative incidents over the summer this year.

And the data seems to back up that user survey assessment.

The number of “incidents” recorded in the Skatepark Incident Logbook kept at the Sportsplex had been rising since 2015 before significantly dropping over this past summer. Additionally, information provided by the Campbell River RCMP also show a show a dramatic decrease in calls received by the police in relation to 1800 South Alder Street this summer during the period the leaders were working at the facility.

“[This] is definitely a good news story which is again indicative of the positive results which can be achieved when the city takes action to address crime and/or disorder-related issues,” according to the RCMP’s crime analyst cited in Wark’s report. “In terms of environmental criminology, improving the guardianship is one way to increase the perceived risk to a potential offender whose activities are more likely to be detected. It is called rational choice theory. If a youth’s activities are supervised, he/she will typically opt to behave differently (even on a subconscious level).”

Members of council were clearly impressed with Wark’s report and the results of the pilot, making it known they would like to see the program fully implemented going forward, so the public should expect to see it as a line item in next year’s financial planning documents. The pilot project didn’t use its entire $15,000 budget this year, but it would have if it was implemented on its original timeline, Wark says.

The pilot project was initially intended to run from May through September, but Wark says it was “challenging to find people who met the qualifications” for the leader positions this year, pushing the start of the pilot back into July. Wark is hopeful that in subsequent years, should the program continue, they can get an earlier start on it.

“One of the benefits of having the two young men this year is that they have been able to identify some potential future leaders and young folk that are interested in being volunteers at the skatepark who could eventually work their way up to becoming leaders,” Wark says.

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