A new program in Red Deer has helped younger people stay active while making the Glendale Skatepark a safer place.
The Skateboard Membership program, run by the Northside Community Centre YMCA, which worked closely with the Central Alberta Skatepark Association, was launched this past June and will continue through September.
“Through COVID, we had so many closures and weren’t able to run our drop-in (youth) programs the way we normally would,” said Amy Komarniski, centre manager.
“We had an opportunity to take some of our programming outdoors and to provide opportunity in a safe space as we were able to engage with youth at the skatepark and other great spaces around our facility.”
The program brings mentors on site and aims to provide positive role models for skatepark users, create a welcoming and inclusive environment, increase confidence and assist youth develop their skills, create a space for community involvement and collaboration, and create a safe space for youth to be active.
“There was a bit of an opportunity to change the experience of accessing the skatepark and provide some great, positive mentorship and relationship development help there. It’s had a big impact on the community as a whole,” said Komarniski.
“Whether parents are coming to the park or green space with their kids or whether it’s youth trying to venture out on their own spaces where they’re going unparented, we know the relationships they build at that time leave a huge impact on how they choose to recreate and where their future relationships lie.
“There’s definitely an opportunity when they’re young to establish positive relationships with adults and other youth and peers who care about them, who care about their futures and want to demonstrate the positive side of youth engagement.”
Komarniski said the staff at the skatepark were already members of central Alberta’s skateboard community.
“They are already recognized peers that have skill in the area that’s interesting to the youth who are there. They’re able to help build confidence and skill in the skatepark, and also provide a solid base for relationships that create the opportunity for long-term, meaningful relationships,” she said.
The Northside Community Centre YMCA, located right next to the skatepark, opened just over two years ago. Since opening in July 2019, the centre has seen a “great uptick” in youth programming participation, said Komarniski.
The Skateboard Mentorship program is expected to run again next year.
“It’s had an incredible response in the community. We have a tremendous amount of parents calling and writing in to say the safe feeling of the skatepark has been enhanced significantly,” Komarniski said.
Staffed hours at the Glendale Skatepark are noon to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit northernalberta.ymca.ca.