A group of Petrolia teens wants to make sure they have a place to bike and use their skateboard. And they’re willing to raise money to help make it happen.
The teens original park at Engelhart Park was torn down to make way for the Central Lambton Family Health Team building. The equipment that was still on site was removed and the skateboarders and bikers were left to use concrete pads at local businesses and the Farmers’ Market.
Until they received permission from Charlie Fairbank to use a vacant property he owns on Railroad Street. Last summer, the teens peeled linoleum off concrete, swept away rocks and built their own ramps for the park. There was also a large dirt hill available for the bikers to use.
But recently the teens were hearing rumours Fairbank would turn the lot into parking, leaving them without a place to ride and board again.
A group of about a dozen teens came to Petrolia Council Monday to voice their concerns and reinforce the need for a place for teens to go.
“Recently there have been a group of people vandalizing the park and attracting complaints from the seniors’ residence next door,” says Terrin Finlayson, a regular at the park. “They’re smashing bottles and spraying graffiti on the concrete.”
Finlayson says that’s making it dangerous for legitimate park users. “But that’s the only place we have to ride.”
Fairbank, who was at the council meeting, quickly put the teen’s fears of being turfed to rest. Fairbank plans to make an area close to the street into parking and will move the dirt hill used for biking behind the skateboard portion of the makeshift park. “That should also help with the vandalism,” he says noting the dirt hill now obscures anything that goes on behind it.”
While the teens were reassured they still have a place to ride – some thanking Fairbank as they left – they still want the town to consider a more permanent home.
Justin McDonald asked council to consider including a skate park as part of the town’s Backyard Plan for the Oil Heritage District Community Centre. While some worry it might be out of the way for teens to get to, the skateboarders say having it in such a public place would ensure there would be fewer acts of vandalism.
Josh Morely says they’re willing to work to get the park in place. “We’re very serious about this project,” he says. The teens are already planning a fundraising barbecue, online fundraising and have done some research on the cost of a park – in the neighbourhood of $50,000 to $75,000.
“We believe it is well worth it if it is constructed well,” says Morely. “It will help keep teenagers off the streets.”
Mayor John McCharles assured the teens council will take their concerns seriously however he did not say when the request might be considered.
While they wait for a new park, the teens were looking for some equipment from the past. They say the rail and a box that were at the old park were still good and they would like to use them on Fairbank’s property.
Dave Menzies, director of community services, says the box was junked after public works employees pulled it out of a creek. The rail, he says, is likely at the public works yard and will be turned over to the group if it can be found.
Krista Mueller, a teacher at LCCVI who helped the students with their presentation to council, added the students are willing to create their own equipment for the current park if someone comes forward with materials for them. “These guys are willing to build and work and to make something they can use,” she says.