On Friday lunchtime Ryde Town Council (RTC) announced that due to “antisocial behaviour” at Ryde Skatepark, the facility would be closed to skateboarders.
The RTC claimed that the park, which has stood behind LA Bowl on Ryde seafront for the last 20 years, had been “vandalised to an extent that it exposes health and safety risks to members of the public”.
Anger from users of the park
The response from skateboarders to RTC’s announcement was one of anger. Anger that users of the park had been “painted in a negative light”, with many citing a lack of maintenance and a skatepark built in plywood next in a coastal location as a factor in the wear and tear of the park (read the full responses on RTC’s Facebook Page).
Ryde has had a skatepark facility for the last 20 years, but after funding and maintenance became an issue back in 2006, the park was closed. It was eventually rebuilt by users of the park, re-opening in 2009/10. Eleven years on, the same issues are back and this time, Zoe Thompson says, “with even greater risk”.
Needed now more than ever
Over the last ten years the Island has seen funding for youth provision slashed, community centres and youth centres closed, and a significant amount of responsibility for local facilities being given to town and parish councils.
In November 2020 the lease agreement between Isle of Wight Council to Ryde Town Council for the skatepark site expired. Zoe says that a temporary agreement has been made, but it’s understood, this can be cancelled at any time.
In the year that we see skateboarding in the Olympics for the first time, Ryde’s local park is closed and its future put at risk.
Thompson: “Hit a wall every time” asked for a longer lease
For several years Zoe says she’s been seeking clarity and a commitment from the Isle of Wight council about the future of the skatepark.
She told News OnTheWight,
“I have been directly involved in discussions about Ryde skatepark for the last seven years. In that time there has been talk of moving the site somewhere else, trying to get a longer lease from Isle of Wight council (IWC) and even turning it into a dinghy park to go with the Harbour.
“For the last three years I have directly asked in Ryde Town Council meetings, Ryde Regeneration Meetings, and Ryde Youth committee meetings what the plans are for the skatepark – knowing the lease was going to expire. Unfortunately we have hit a wall every time, being told that Isle of Wight Council are reluctant to arrange a lease.”
Essential maintenance only
Zoe went on to say,
“Understandably with no security of the park site, Ryde Town Council cannot justify spending any money on the park and have, for several years now, only been able to do essential maintenance.
“No significant funding can be found for the park with a lease agreement as it stands – no one would want to put money into something that has the potential to then be shut down at any point.”
Area set for regeneration
At the end of last month Zoe says she was told by Ryde Town Council staff, after they attended a meeting with Isle of Wight council, that “everyone was supportive of working together to help find funds for renovations, and that there may be a possibility from Isle of Wight council for a lease agreement of five to eight years”.
However she says she was also told,
“The main caveat was that the area is set for regeneration at some point and so there would need to be a reversion clause in the lease agreement that allows them to take back the land if a major project came to fruition in that period.”
Thompson: Retain site for skatepark users
Zoe went on to explain,
“What this then potentially leaves us with is exactly the same situation, money being spent on a park site that Ryde Town Council or the community have no real control over.
“The seafront is for leisure and recreation, and that should continue to include skatepark users in a spot that has been there for 20 years. There should be no need to move people out of a prime location just because it might be inconvenient to redevelopment.”
Parks not well maintained attract more anti social behaviour
So we are now at a point where more money is needed for the park to get the gates back open so people can use it – and the maintenance costs will continue to rise as the park continues to decline.
We also know that parks which are not well maintained will attract more anti social behaviour, as real users become displaced.
Zoe finished by saying,
“So the real issue is not about vandalism, but why can that relatively small area not be secured for the use of a skatepark for the next 20+ years.”
Watch skateboarding championships
Depending on when you are reading this article, don’t miss the Skateboard GB x Habito National Championships live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport Website or on Skateboard GB YouTube Channel from 6pm on Sunday (11th April).
Image: © Archive image of Ryde Skatepark