News / Vancouver

Inside Canada’s first outdoor, public parkour park

Rene Scavington barely wobbles in his precarious perch on a green metal bar a few metres off the ground.

Without hesitating, he leaps onto an adjoining structure and lands smoothly.

Scavington, the owner of Origins Parkour and Athletics Facility, is testing out Canada’s first public outdoor parkour spot, built by the Vancouver Park Board beside the Empire Fields at Hastings Park.

“I’m stoked,” Scavington says of the jungle-gym-esque structure bordered by concrete blocks and walls. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Scavington showed Metro some moves on a sneak-peek tour of the park, which is slated to open in April. (Warning: don’t go there yet. The construction site is closed to the public.)

Easy jump for city

Parkour, the practice of moving from one place to another using only your body to overcome obstacles along your route, landed a permanent home as part of the multimillion-dollar, 20-year redevelopment of Hastings Park, explains Dave Hutch, a park-board manager of research and planning.

When the park board started looking in 2011 for ideas for the 12-acre area called Plateau Park — the $10-million project will have its grand opening this summer — the Hastings Park master plan required it to appeal to youth.

“We wanted to do something innovative and creative,” Hutch says. “We asked, ‘How can we cater to youth and young adults who aren’t involved in team sports?’”

Around the same time, Scavington approached the park board asking for a sanctioned space to practise parkour.

Grown-up playground

In the same way people skateboarded before cities built skate parks in the ’90s, people meet to practise parkour in public or private areas until they get kicked out, Scavington says.

His indoor parkour gym is one of only a handful in Canada.

“We’re not trying to break-and-enter,” he said. “We just want to try different moves.”

The interest in parkour, which originated in France more than a decade ago, continues to grow.

Scavington says his gym has about 500 regulars, aged five to 65.

“It’s here to stay,” he says. “Everyone kind of does parkour on the playground as a kid.... You’re going to see more and more people climbing on stuff outside.”

The park board agreed. It worked with Scavington and others to develop a design for the spot, which was built for $30,000. The final product is “sick,” Scavington says.

Insta-bait

The park is “use at your own risk,” just like any other facility, so the park board won’t be liable for injuries.

Parkour is one of many features in the park that took about two years to build after 18 months of consultation, Hutch says.

Hutch hopes it will become a major destination. And with the PNE roller-coaster and the mountains as a backdrop, it’s safe to bet it will be all over Instagram.

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