Silky smooth concrete skate parks have been cropping up around the Montreal region in recent years, drawing crowds of young people away from their screens and outside for some gravity-defying exercise.
But kids in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce are still stuck rolling over wheel-grabbing cracks in crumbling asphalt and attempting stunts on outdated obstacles that have been a source of complaints for years.
One NDG dad has had enough. He started a petition that is quickly gathering steam online, calling on the borough to finally update the ancient skate park.
It was when Jonathan Stein started driving his son to other skate parks in the area that he realized just how bad the one in Benny Park really is.
"We are becoming aware of all the other ones around here and realizing how, you know, sort of impoverished this is compared to those ones," said Stein, and that's why he decided to take matters into his own hands.
The re-purposed tennis court may have served the community years ago, but it's time to move forward, he said.
"It's worth investing in our youth and giving a park for them to enjoy for years to come," said Stein, who wants to see the skate park bigger as well.
His son, James Nathan Stein-Webb, is a 10-year-old with a passion for skateboarding, but he said the skate park in NDG is "very dangerous."
"It needs to be updated because there are cracks and people use it every day and we need to have a good skate park that we can use," he said, pointing out some of the cracks in the asphalt that can bring a fast moving skateboard to a sudden stop.
Regardless, the boy said he loves not just the sport, but the people who do it as well.
"I feel like skateboarding has a really great community," he said. "It's very nice and people are always cheering you on."
Calls for new NDG skate park go way back
Calls for a new skate park in NDG date back to at least 2014 when Samuel Kardash headed a campaign of his own, wanting to see it renovated for himself, his kids and all the youth in NDG. But nothing changed in the seven years since.
Betty Esperanza has also advocated for a new skate park in NDG for years.
"It's so important to have a skate park because that's the safest place they can skateboard," she said.
Otherwise, kids are patching together their own obstacles or hitting the streets in search of urban furniture to grind on or ollie off.
"I think when kids are in a safe environment, just like they are in a hockey rink or soccer field, they are protected and it's the best place for them to skateboard," she said.
Côte-Des-Neiges—NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery says she is on board.
"Of course our skate park at Benny Park could use some TLC," she said, admitting it's an old design.
She wants to look into either fixing up the existing facility or starting from scratch.
Get community involved with planning, association says
Yann Fily-Paré, the project director Association Skateboard Montréal, said a small skate park could be installed for about a million dollars, but there are many factors that can increase the cost of a project, ranging from land decontamination to installing lights.
If the borough were to invest $2 to $3 million, the skate park could become a destination for skaters around the area, he said.
But, he added, boroughs should shy away from just handing the project planning over to a contractor who isn't connected to the sport or the local community's needs.
When designing a skate park, it's important to have skaters and the community involved to ensure it works well for the neighbourhood — making it not just fun, but also flow well no matter if you're on a skateboard, scooter or bike, he said.
Skate parks should be planned to accommodate all skill levels, and not simply skateboard-centric, he said.
"It's important to have the community involved in the design because a skate park is for a lot of different kinds of users," Fily-Paré said.
"So it's hard for one designer to fill the needs of the entire community. When you have a diverse design committee, we make a design that will work for beginners, intermediates, experts and other users."