By Connor Kakeeway
While plans of a proposed skatepark have been available for few months, this past Tuesday January 28, Naotkamegwanning project and arena manager Mary Ann Mooring hosted an open forum at Baibombeh Anishinabe School.
“All this is coming from the voice of youth,” said Principal Eric Wilson who introduced the two guest. The presentation was split into two group, grade 7-12 and 4-6 and had been announced as a public event of the community’s local Facebook page.
Mary Ann, who is an electrical engineer by trade and maintained many sports centres including the Kenora Recreation Centre, spoke with her partner Alex Man, a geological engineer and trail designer for Scatliff + Miller + Murray.
“You need you own space,” said the arena manager about the upcoming skatepark.
She said the idea and planning initially started in spring of 2018 and that she has since then worked with chief and council. She said she had approved the plans and layout. These plans included Ojibwe themes in the skatepark to be shaped as a snake and turtle.
In both groups, questions were asked on where they would find equipment. They both responded with the idea of getting the older youth to create a fundraising project and corporate sponsorship.
Alex Man is no stranger to skateboarding and working with first nation communities, being skateboarder himself and having created a skate park in Wabigoon First Nation including making sure the youth were involved.
In the discussion about maintaining the space Alex also explained that the area should be maintained because rocks and dirt is hazardous to skateboarders. He also brought up bad versus good graffiti – bad meaning unplanned, gang related, and hateful. Good being planned, artistic, meaningful art. Mary Ann went on to suggest a contest on graffiti art that can be facilitated by local artists.
Jazlyn Copenace of grade four said she thinks it would be boring without colour, supporting colourful concrete consisting of the rainbow spectrum.
Mary Ann explained that this will be a good opportunity for more jobs in the community in maintaining the skatepark and the recreation centre which is now the Shawendaasowin Prevention office. Saying the location transition will be next winter, Mary Ann explains that the space could be rebranded to a new business such as a coffee/ice cream shop, with other recreational space such as pool or ping pong tables.
Mary Ann said they are planning to start this May on the soil and be ready for July long weekend. The estimated cost is $385,000. She says the are currently waiting on a grant to cover $185,000 and are looking for corporate sponsors. Mary Ann and Alex are looking forward to community input to be forwarded to her at the arena next month.
When asked if this area can be used by people who aren’t interested in sports, Mary Ann replied “You don’t have to care about sports, it’s about family gathering and building character”.