Calgary closes privately built skateboard park on public land due to liability concerns

The City of Calgary has shut down an unlicensed, privately built skate park on city property in the southeast community of Ramsay over liability concerns.

The park, called Penguin DIY, was built by a group of skateboarding enthusiasts who raised thousands of dollars to pay for the project. 

It was built on land designated for the Green Line LRT across from the old Penguin Car Wash.

City spokesperson Wendy Tynan says that when the city discovered the park, it decided to erect a metal fence around the concrete bowl and close it due to safety concerns. The project does not meet code, it is not licensed or insured and the city could be on the hook if anyone got hurt, she says.

“No one’s in trouble for doing this,” said Wendy Tynan, director of stakeholder relations and communications for the Green Line project.

“We’re very aware it’s a lot of work that’s gone into this, but we just need to make sure that the city is not taking on any unnecessary liability.”

Tynan says the city is hoping to hear from those who built the park so that together they can find a solution.

In the meantime, the city has reached out to the Ramsay Community Association to see if it can take on the bowl through a licence of occupation, to be covered under the association’s insurance policy, in the same way that it operates its outdoor hockey rink.

“It would be the kind of thing that would be there for a good time but not a long time,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, representative for Ward 9.

Save the Penguin

One of the people behind Penguin DIY is Gord Stewart. 

In a statement to CBC News, he said there are a lot of disappointed youth who frequented the park.

“[It] broke my heart that we had to tell people it was over,” wrote Stewart via Facebook Messenger.

City spokesperson Wendy Tynan says that when the city discovered the park, it erected a fence around the concrete bowl and closed it over safety concerns. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

He said no one had approached the users about any safety concerns. He said if they had, they would have fixed the problems. He says he was also under the impression that the land was privately owned, not city owned.

But he said people are willing to do whatever it takes to see it reopened.

“If we need to pull permits, we will do so in order to be able to skate there and finish the bowl.

“We are willing to work with the city, the Ramsey Community Association and whomever else it will take to save Penguin,” wrote Stewart.

Added ‘edginess’ to community

It has not only been popular with the skateboarding community — those who live nearby say it’s been a good use of the space.

“I think it brings something like a level of coolness and edginess to the neighborhood that is super positive,” said James Purdy, Ramsay resident.

Purdy says he has had only a couple of issues with the park since it opened more than a year ago. He says there were a few large and loud fundraisers on the site that made some people anxious.

Otherwise, he says, he would like to see it kept open.

“It’s been good, we’ve had some, you know, some transients coming … sort of camped out there, (but then) they came along, they cleaned it up.”

Tynan says the land wouldn’t be needed for a few years, so the park could potentially be open to the public next summer and the summer of 2023.

She says people should reach out to the Ramsay Community Association if they want to get involved.

“So we are looking forward to finding out if there is somebody who wants to step forward and take responsibility for it and then let them keep using it for the next little bit,” Tynan said.

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