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Calgary's Poppy Plaza is no place for popping ollies

When I was a kid, my family always called me a tattletale.

I told them I was just preparing myself to be a columnist: “I report what I see.”

But, this week, I felt like a little bit of a 32-year-old tattletale when I tweeted Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell new photos of Poppy Plaza, which has now been damaged by skateboarders who visit the park on a daily basis.

Since opening last summer, the Poppy Plaza, a component of the $31.5 million redevelopment plan along Memorial Drive known as The Landscape of Memory, commemorating citizens who have preserved our freedom and security, has become a regular stop for skateboarders in and around the area. Now, I’m not against skateboarding. As a cyclist who’s regularly ostracized by certain city councillors, I can only imagine being a skateboarder to be 10 times worse.

But, I do take issue with skateboarding when it subsequently damages a war memorial. To me, it seems unfathomable that people can dismiss the park’s significance because of their chosen hobby.

Zev Klymochko, founder of the Calgary Association of Skateboarding Enthusiasts (CASE), calls Poppy Plaza an unintentional “paradise for skateboarders” and argues that he sees all types of people recreating in the park, “from children riding their bikes over the 'obstacles' to adults inline skating through the park.” He adds, “So where do we draw the line as to what's OK and what's not OK to do in Poppy Plaza?”

Klymochko says many of his peers believe that veterans would believe that skateboarders are exercising their freedom as Canadians.  Not so, said Farrell, who tweeted earlier this week: “Poppy Plaza is a war memorial & I don't see skateboarding in its future.”

And while I’ve written before that Poppy Plaza isn't the most appealing park in terms of comfort, at the end of the day, it's a war memorial and no matter how enticing it might be for certain activities, if it's damaging the park then the perpetrators need to move on. Someone has to ultimately pay for the repairs - why should it be the city?

Of course, I don’t want to paint all skateboarders as “war-memorial-damaging punks”, but it’s definitely frustrating to see a video on CASE’s website featuring skateboarders doing tricks at Poppy Plaza. I mean, fine, use it if you think you’re justified, but to flaunt it by making a video and posting it? I’m not too sure about that one.

Farrell hopes that skateboarders in Poppy Plaza will become less of an issue once a restaurant occupies the park’s sole building. The City has also adopted a Skateboard Amenities Strategy, with the City of Calgary committing to developing three skateparks by year’s end and another five skateparks in 2015. Klymochko believe these parks will help in catching up our skateboarding infrastructure with that of other cities.

The plans for the parks actually look really cool, so, hopefully, that will give skateboarders enough places to board and they'll leave Poppy Plaza alone.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll even give skateboarding a try…

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