Dawson skate park opens Amy Kenny, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Skateboard parks aren’t just for skateboards anymore.

That’s why you’ll notice some new features at the Dawson City Skate Park this year.

The park had its seasonal opening on Thursday. The event also served as a kind of grand opening for the redesign.

“The overall goal was opening it up for a variety of users,” says Paul Robitaille, Dawson’s manager of parks and recreation.

To that end, the park now features a spine ramp and additional rails, which allow for bikes and scooters to use the park.

The $180,000 redesign also included a complete reconfiguration of the space to create better flow, says Robitaille. Because the park is modular (ramps, rails and features are above-ground rather than cemented in-ground), the city was able to re-paint and reposition everything. This made space for the introduction of more advanced features, such as a larger half ramp and additional beginner sections.

Robitaille says there are avid skaters in the parks department. Decisions about the park layout came out of conversations those staff started with locals. He says designs went back and forth between staff and citizens, leading to discussions about what users and would-be users wanted to see.

As a result, both seasoned and beginner riders were in attendance at the opening on June 1. Whitehorse-based skater Ashley Swinton was there, armed with a fleet of loaner skateboards to teach basic skills to new riders.

Swinton has led workshops throughout the Yukon for the last four years. She says the skate community in Dawson is particularly enthusiastic. Last year, she had 30 kids come out to a workshop. One summer, she had a mom show up to a lesson for her 40th birthday. By the end of the lesson, the woman was riding ramps alongside her kids.

Mastering that kind of skill is what got Swinton into the sport 20 years ago. Soccer was her main sport growing up, but something different about skating stuck with her into adulthood.

“It’s an incomparable feeling to anything else,” she says over the phone in a June 1 interview. “The feeling of landing a trick for the first time or even just the adrenaline of riding down a hill? It’s just really rewarding to see the work you put in and then see the results.”

It’s not something most kids communicate to her in words, but she can see it anyway.

“When they’re riding down the ramp, the smile spreads so far across their face.”

A mural was also unveiled. The project is the result of a collaboration between the Grade 8 class at Robert Service School, high school art classes, the mobile therapeutic team at the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Education.

Robitaille says the partnership with the First Nation, which co-hosted the opening, was appealing for a number of reasons. The First Nation has put a lot of effort into bringing skateboard community leaders to Dawson. Swinton is one of those. In the past, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have also brought up professional skater Dustin Henry and his brother Tristan.

It creates pride in the sport and the space, said Robitaille — the kind that brings people out for food, drinks, music and more to celebrate the start of a new season.

“For a town of our size, we punch above our weight when it comes to parks and recreation facilities,” he said. “It’s good to pat ourselves on the back about it at times because we do have some really cool facilities in a town of 2,000 people in the middle of the wilderness.”

Swinton agrees.

“Especially in a town like this, where most of the town is dirt,” she said.

Making the effort to lay down some concrete so people can skate is a big deal. Not only does it give them a physical place to practise their sport, it becomes a hub for that community.

By Amy Kenny, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 13, 2023 at 15:35

This item reprinted with permission from   Yukon News   Whitehorse, Yukon
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