Saturday 17 November, 2018

Skateboarding Association: Skate park was no secret

A fundraising skate competition being held at the recently demolished skate park.

A fundraising skate competition being held at the recently demolished skate park.

On the heels of last Friday's demolition of the skate park on Ministry of Agriculture property at Graeme Hall, the Skateboarding Association of Barbados is refuting some of the comments made by the Ministry as "simply untrue".

In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry said that the structure was “discovered a few weeks ago” by officials touring the lands at Graeme Hall. However, the Skateboarding Association has challenged this, insisting that the Ministry of Agriculture has been aware of the skate park, known as the F-Spot, for the past seven years.

“They have even hand-delivered mail to us, from the Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture, Honourable Stephen Lashley. Ministry vehicles regularly traverse the many paths surrounding the former park and have engaged us in discussions on many occasions. The skatepark was also clearly visible from many of the access roads throughout the compound,” said the Skateboarding Association.

Correspondence to a member of the Skateboarding Association from Sports Minister Stephen Lashley.

They were also adamant that the skaters who used the area were not involved in any illegal dumping, another problem that was highlighted in the Ministry’s statement.

“The skateboarding community had nothing to do with any illegal dumping, if anything, we served as a deterrent. We also installed numerous bins and regularly cleaned up the environments surrounding the park.

“When we discovered the ‘F-spot’ in late 2009, it was nothing more than a burnt down site with old office equipment, toilet fixtures and old sewerage pipes strewn all over. Rainwater had pooled into the large holes in the concrete floor which was coated with a slick mossy film, resembling a gully.”

“We began transformation of the spot in 2010, documenting the entire process through photos and video documentaries. The spot was cleaned up, painted, and maintained for the last seven years. It was during this period that we had our first interaction with Officials from the Ministry, to seek permission to place a metal obstacle in the ground. While permission was granted, nothing was put in writing.”

F-Spot demolition

The Skateboarding Association said that some months ago a gate had been erected on the path leading to the park and on March 23, two of its committee members met with the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Esworth Reid, in the presence of his secretary, to find out if they could continue to use the site. According to them, Reid assured them that the issue of thoroughfare access had nothing to do with the skateboarders, but arose from complaints from residents in the area about increased vehicular traffic in the morning.

To their shock, the Association said it was contacted by a nearby resident on the morning of May 26, and was informed them the park was being demolished.

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“This came as a shock to us. Up to that point we had a good rapport with the Ministry and not once during our seven years there had we received any complaints about our skateboarding activities. Ministry officials have even praised us for ‘doing something positive with ourselves” and “not bothering anyone.’ The least we expected was that because of the existing relationship, we would have been given the opportunity to remove our equipment, ” said the Association, noting that the demolition destroyed skateboarding equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars and was used for demonstrations, community outreach and contests.

According to the Skateboarding Association, while some officials from the Ministry of Housing and Lands and the Barbados Agricultural Development Management Corporation (BADMC) have been sympathetic to their plight, attempts to discuss what had gone wrong with the current Permanent Secretary were shut down, as they were told “it makes no sense having this conversation.”

Nonetheless, the skaters say they will not allow this setback to get them down, adding, “The Barbados skateboarding community is used to experiencing roadblocks and obstacles, however, we will continue to stay irie, show true love and keep moving.”