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Group of residents looking to carve a skatepark in Hespeler

'What happens is when you don't have a skatepark facility for them, then Hespeler is the skatepark,' says Hespeler resident

It's a feeling of calm and peacefulness for which some youth say they ride skateboards. 

"It's always been a passion of mine," said Cooper James Evans, 13. "My dad was a really good skateboarder so he got me into it when I was really young."

He said he enjoys it because he finds it calming and it's where he finds his peace. 

"I ride it most places," said the 13-year-old who lives in Hespeler.. "But it would be nice to have a skate park because the concrete is smooth there and it's a designated place where you won't get kicked out."

And that's what happened a year and half ago when some youth were found skateboarding at the area cenotaph, said Bill Kalbhenn.

"The kids used to go there and skate on the cenotaph," said the veteran service officer with the legion in town and vice chairman of the Hespeler Heritage Centre. "That perturbed a few people. We made arrangements with the city to put some metal clips on the cenotaph so they would not skate there."

Kalbhenn said he had a chat with the kids to explain to them why they couldn't skate on the cenotaph. 

"They were very respectful when I approached them," he recalled. "They avoided doing it in future, but the issue was, 'Where do we go?'

"What happens is when you don't have a skatepark facility for them, then Hespeler is the skatepark," said Kalbhenn. "They'll go anywhere and it's not safe in all the locations." 

That got him talking on Facebook about putting together a committee of local residents, parents and youth, that would work with the city to bring a skatepark to the Village of Hespeler.

Kalbhenn said he's brought together a group of like-minded people and has spoken with a couple councillors and city staff, but the Hespeler Village Skatepark Committee is waiting until stage three of reopening to meet in person.

"We would like to meet in person so we can understand the personalities involved and determine from there the direction we need to go," he said.

Right now, neither have any locations been proposed nor does the group have any idea what it will cost and how much fundraising they may need to do, Kalbhenn said.

Young James Evans suggests the skatepark should be located somewhere near the Hespeler core area so youth can access it easily and then grab a bite at a nearby eatery. 

Ezra Lacoursiere, 12, concurred.

"(It) doesn't matter what kind of skatepark; we just need a place to skate," he added. "All my friends usually skate and if they don't they bike." 

The young Hespeler area resident said he had learned the skills form his brother and father.

"It's very calming and it gets me away from everything," said Lacoursiere, who is currently trying to teach himself some tricks 

But it's difficult to do it on an uneven surface, he noted.

"There are so many cracks; it's just way harder," said Lacoursiere.

Erica Cooper knows exactly the kinds of dangers skateboarding on an uneven surface can bring.

The Hespeler resident grew up on Queen Street and Rooshill Avenue and used to skate as a child. 

"I hit a rock and fell and broke my leg when I was 12," said Cooper, who joined the committee to give the kids a safe place to skate.

"It's about empowering youth in Hespeler to have their voices heard," she said. "I think they are the future and there are so many good things that can happen to Hespeler downtown by having it on this side of town. 

"If my kid needs it, there are other kids that need it," added Cooper. 

Kalbhenn said the skatepark wouldn't be just for youth, adults that skateboard will also be able to use the facility. 

"There would be rules put in place but, again, that would be determined by the committee," he said. "It's important we get community involvement. What I really want to get is a skatepark facility that's free for everyone to use. It's difficult for them to always go to Preston or Guelph, but if it's somewhere here, they can walk down to it and the parents can come, too."