Bridgwater people have been campaigning for a skatepark for years and now the grandchildren of those original campaigners (well almost) are finally to witness that dream become a reality. The new Bridgwater Skatepark will be at the YMCA on Friarn Avenue, and will officially open at 10.30am on Saturday 14th December 2013. The park will be opened by skate park users, staff from the YMCA, Sedgemoor District Council Chairman, Councillor Peter Downing and Bridgwater Mayor, Councillor Dave Loveridge.
Land and Freedom
Westover ward councillors Brian Smedley & Steve Austen were members of the Wheeled Sports Facility Panel that guided the final phase of the project in to it’s current location at the YMCA. Cllr Smedley explained the history, “The site wasn’t arrived at without complications and the main issue locally was always ‘land’. The campaign has been obviously going for years without that issue being adequately addressed and at one stage we thought it was solved when Sedgemoor gave planning permission to land at the College for the skatepark, then that use was suddenly changed, and then they suggested land at the Clink, but this land wasn’t really in their power to gift, so none of these happened. This is why the users formed the Skateparks Campaign Group to try to drive the issue forward. This resulted in the modest gain of the 2 mini-parks on Cranleigh Gardens and Victoria Park. However, there was a concern that the big park that everyone really wanted might never happen now that they’d provided the mini-parks so the pressure had to be kept on and crucially the issue of land addressed. Eventually we produced a comprehensive list of all possible sites in the town and put it to the users and partner groups and as a result they accepted the YMCA site. For the people of Westover it’s a good choice as it’s slap bang in the middle of our ward but also easily accessible to the rest of the town and also sufficiently out of the way to preserve it’s independence whilst at the same time being alongside the YMCA which is without doubt the leading youth facility in the town.”
The skatepark, designed by 1Skateparks, includes ramps, a bowl, rails and has a centrepiece carrying the names of t he local young people who formed a user-group and invested a great deal of time and effort into the project. The opening will see the user-group and other young people enjoy the facilities for the first time. In the early spring of next year, a skate-jam event is being planned.
The £150,000 project was funded by a £20,000 contribution from Bridgwater Town Council and £130,000 from funds held by Sedgemoor District Council. Cllr Smedley clarified, “A large proportion of the SDC funds ringfenced was from money set aside for use in the Westover Ward for youth leisure and recreation facilities. This money was stockpiled by way of a standing agreement with developers of the many housing projects in the area in lieu of providing leisure land within the developments themselves and thereafter proportioned up for allocation around the town by wards.”
‘A Far Off Dream’
Jack Bridges a local skater who was part of the user-group said, ‘We are really happy to have completed what at times has felt like a far-off dream but by the looks of it the skatepark has definitely been worth the wait.’
Martin Hodgson, Chief Executive of the YMCA said, ‘The group of young people have excelled themselves in bringing this project to fruition. Bridgwater has got the skatepark it deserves’.
Councillor John Swayne, Sedgemoor’s Portfolio Holder for Community and Scrutiny said, ‘This is a great day for the Bridgwater skater, scooter and BMX community. Sedgemoor District Council’s Community Development team have been working with the user-group, YMCA and Bridgwater Town Council to ensure the finished skatepark was value for money and what local young people wanted. The Council are proud to have worked in partnership to achieve the great facilities opening on the 14th’.
Bridgwater Town Mayor David Loveridge added, “The Town Council are delighted to have played their part in securing another major facility, which has been purpose-built for the younger people in our community. It has been a long time coming but is truly fit for purpose.”
David Ransom of 1Skateparks said, ‘Sedgemoor District Council, the YMCA and Bridgwater user-group have been a pleasure to work with. We have all been so impressed with how well the user-group have worked together, to take the time and effort needed to make sure they get the great facility they wanted. We can’t wait to ride it with them!’.
Cllr Smedley added, “Apart from the determined campaigning of the Skaters and BMX’ers over the years, actually the key person to have brought this project to fruition is Sedgemoor officer Rob Semple (pictured right-in the shadows), a large part of his Community brief being youth development work and this is a classic example of that dedication and hard work paying off. Rob would easily qualify for the award for unsung hero of 2013 (if there was one).”
There will be public access to the skatepark from 11am on the 14th December. Normal opening hours after the 14th will be 8:00am-9:00pm Monday to Sunday.