Greg Groves said he remembered how thrilled he was when St. Albert opened its first skatepark more than 20 years ago. It was an El Niño year, and it was so warm out he could ride the half pipe on Christmas Day.
“I grew up in Woodlands (across the street), and now there was this park down at the end of the block. I wish I had it when I was growing up,” he said.
Now in his 40s, Groves was one of about 40 people rolling, grinding, and launching off the rails, ramps, and bowls of St. Albert’s just-rebuilt Woodlands Skatepark.
“It turned out way better than I could have imagined,” Groves said, and it should help many up-and-coming skateboarders grow in skill.
“It sort of puts St. Albert on the map of skateboard parks to visit in the area.”
The Woodlands Skatepark was one of the first of its kind in Alberta when it was built in late 1997 and has long been a hangout for St. Albert youth.
The park looked great on paper, but in practice its layout made it impossible for riders to flow from one feature to the next, said Groves, who has been skateboarding for about 30 years. Its concrete surface had also become rough and covered with graffiti in recent years.
City council dedicated $1.67 million to replace the park as part of its 2020 budget and held a webinar on its design last year. Demolition and construction started in April 2020.
Big bowls, big air
The new park was open to the public as of March 19, said City of St. Albert recreation co-ordinator Dean McMullan. Some of the concrete and paving stones from the old park were reused to build the new one.
Groves and other skaters at the park praised the park’s layout, which allowed riders to take multiple routes and cut down on collisions. Beginners could stick to the rails and flatter sections on the outside, transition to the shallow bowl as they gained skill, then plunge down the 8’2” sides of the pool bowl to catch some serious hang-time.
“It doesn’t matter what type of skateboarder, scooter, or biker you are, there will be at least one feature here that appeals to you,” Groves said.
Mill Woods skater Mike Svoboda, 38, said the new park seemed much bigger than its predecessor (McMullan said it was about 14,000 square feet, or about a thousand more than the original) and offered more options for street skating, such as rails, ledges, and stairs.
“The layout, in my opinion, is incredible. It’s definitely one of the best parks I’ve ridden.”
St. Albert skater Riley Foster, 15, said the park’s pool bowl was a rare feature in this region and would let riders do new jumps and tricks.
“It’s nice to have something I can be proud of in St. Albert,” he said.
Skaters at the park approved of the city’s decision to ban graffiti in the park. While often associated with skateboarding, Groves said paint on fresh concrete made it slick and dangerous, and hoped the park would stay paint-free for at least five or six years.
McMullan said crews would finish landscaping the park in the coming weeks and turn on the new lights, which would be bright enough to allow for nighttime skateboarding for the first time. Crews would also paint a silhouette of a skateboarder on the back of the pyramid hip (the triangular ramp). The city hoped to hold a grand opening for the park once COVID-related health restrictions lifted.
McMullan asked all park attendees to follow provincial health guidelines and the park's rules while on site.