It sounds like a plan few could argue with: A new covered skateboard bowl for devoted skaters who want a place to do tricks when the weather is bad.
Throw in the fact the planners said they would build it and pay for it themselves, and it sounds like a perfect plan.
The “Slashiter Cove” bowl, which currently sits half-constructed under Mashiter Creek Bridge in Garibaldi Highlands, is the work of Mike Quesnel and the Skateboarders Mason Association (SMA).
Quesnel said there is currently nothing for youth to do in the Highlands.
“We are making an area that is useless, under a bridge, and we are turning it into a park,” he said.
But some of the skateboard park’s neighbours paint a very different picture of the project. Their opposition started with the park’s rogue beginnings.
Construction began in 2013, without any municipal approvals. The district was alerted to the construction in about January 2014.
“We did some things wrong,” acknowledged Quesnel.
Since then, the planners have followed all the rules that have been set out for them by the municipality, he said.
Maria Peterson, who lives in the house adjacent to the park, said Slashiter Cove has been a bad idea from the start.
She said she never allowed her own children down in the area when they were growing up because it was too isolated and close to the creek.
She said some of her concerns with the park include safety, the lack of bathroom facilities and garbage.
“I don’t want youth down there because it is dangerous when they walk around,” she said, adding the bowl can only fit one or two skaters at a time so many skaters will be milling about waiting their turn.
These are concerns Quesnel has heard many times before.
“What if someone is hiking the Chief and falls off the trail? What if someone is hiking the Chief and has to go to the bathroom – where do they go, what do they do – it is not like it is the end of the world,” he said.
“It is going to be a rad park and everything is cleared up and everything is fine with the district, and we have a license agreement that we have to follow and the rules and guidelines are set to us, and we are building it.”
Quesnel also said that there is insurance in place in case of an accident.
About one year ago, after much heated debate, council approved a one-year trial period for the 22-by-45-foot skate bowl.
The trial begins when the licensed agreement is signed, which Quesnel said will be done by the end of this week.
Once the Licence of Occupation and Building permit is issued, the district has the right to oversee the project at any point throughout, according to district staff.
The licence states that construction will begin two weeks after the licence is executed, and construction must be completed within three months.
The park has garnered plenty of high- profile support.
Former councillor Bryan Raiser, who championed the skate park from the beginning, said he is proud to continue to support it.
“I can’t wait until the project is completed,” he said, adding it is a “great community initiative.”
Bradley Klees, who lives in the area but is not a skateboarder, also supports the plan. “I would call myself part of young Squamish – I have been here six years – and outdoor rec is a huge part of why I came here, and I just thought it was a cool idea to have a skate bowl under this bridge,” he said.
Klees said he was disturbed by stereotyping of skateboarders as troublemakers that went along with some of the opposition to the park.
“I know good and bad people who do everything,” he said.
Quesnel, who owns the skateboard shop Stuntwood in downtown Squamish, tried unsuccessfully to get a ramp built at Brennan Park in 2012 after an illegal makeshift covered ramp he upgraded at Britannia Beach was shut down by the province in 2011.
He said he’s received several big donations for Slashiter Cove from local businesses and associations, including most recently $8,000 from the BC Maritime Employers Association/Plan 9.
Quesnel said once the year trial is up, the plan is to turn the park over to the district.
His message to boarders who will use the park is: “respect it.”
He said if the park’s neighbours are respected, “everybody will be good.”