August 22, 2012

Skatepark noise angers residents

As published in The Erin Advocate

Loud noise from the newly-installed skateboard ramps near Centre 2000 has sparked a protest to Town council from nearby residents.

Several residents attended last Wednesday's council meeting, saying the noise level is severe on Daniel and Pine Streets, and that activity at the park was going on too late in the evening. OPP officers were on the scene several times to disperse skateboarders and BMX bike riders.

"I feel like my home has been stolen – I can't sleep in my own home," said one resident. "My property has been devalued."

"It is a nightmare," said another. "We need to educate the kids, and the kids' parents."

Council immediately authorized the spending of $21,600 from the skateboard park budget to have sound dampening equipment installed as soon as possible, and instructed staff to investigate options for a constructed or tree-based sound barrier.

Council also voted to limit park use to the hours of 9 am to 9 pm, which will require a change to signs that have been made, but not installed yet.

The sound dampening will include rubberizing the bottoms of the ramps ($5,400) and attaching walls to enclose the open area under the ramps ($16,200). Unlike in some skatepark parks, the Erin ramps are moveable structures sitting atop a flat concrete pad. Concrete ramps would have cost about $150,000 more, which was not considered feasible.

The pad and ramps were recently installed just west of the arena (less than 10 metres from the closest back yards), after many years of community fundraising and council debate, and with the help of a $60,000 Ontario Trillium Grant. The skateboard budget is $160,000, with only about $121,000 spent so far.

The ramps were ready earlier than expected, on the weekend of August 11, and kids were able to use them immediately, even though other elements of the park were not ready.

"It's a huge novelty now," said Centre 2000 Manager Graham Smith. "Right now it's out of control, but there won't be so many kids normally."

Two security cameras are installed in the area and monitored from the arena office, and two more will be installed soon. Smith said arena security lights should remain on in the area, to deter vandalism.

Council asked that signage and a planned 10-foot fence around the pad be installed as soon as possible. Some residents said that the park should not have been open for use until all construction was complete.

"We are reacting as quickly as possible to an unanticipated problem," said Mayor Lou Maieron.

The Town's 2005 Noise Bylaw says: "The people have a right to and should be ensured an environment free from unusual, unnecessary or excessive sound or noise which may degrade the quality and tranquility of their life or cause nuisance."

However, the noise bylaw does not apply to activities that are specifically exempt, including: "Sporting, recreational and entertainment events in public parks, buildings or grounds authorized by the municipality."