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Skatepark hopes revived

SHETLAND’S extreme sports fraternity are hoping their 10 year wait for a skatepark in Lerwick is about to come to an end.

On Wednesday Shetland Islands Council’s services committee will decide whether to reaffirm a £100,000 grant offered more than five years ago to build a skatepark at Clickimin.

That plan fell through over purchasing land, but now council officers have identified a site next to the Shetland coastguard station on The Knab where the skatepark could go.

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SIC sports and leisure manager Neil Watt said that if the skatepark is not built “another generation of young people will…be denied the opportunity to participate in a healthy outdoor activity”.

He added that without it skating, skateboarding or BMX biking enthusiasts would carry on putting themselves at risk by using main roads, car parks and other dangerous locations to practice.

However councillors face tough financial times and may not be prepared to spend such a large sum while they are closing schools and cutting staff to save cash.

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Shetland Skatepark Association (SSA) started lobbying for a facility in 2001, but initial plans for a site at North Clickimin or Gilbertson Park were defeated by local opposition.

A new site next to the athletics store beside the Clickimin running track was identified and the association raised the £201,277 to go ahead in 2005.

However this plan was delayed by legal problems and finally derailed when the council decided to build a new Anderson High School on the site two years ago.

Now the association, which has 50 active members, has been offered a council-owned site on the Knab golf course and SIC officials are asking members to reaffirm the original grant for a new concrete skatepark to be built.

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SSA chairman James Stewart said the age range of people involved in extreme sports in Shetland stretched from the under 10s to the over 30s, and its popularity would only grow if a skatepark was built.

He added that the association was already holding onto half of the council grant that had been handed over five and a half years ago. If the rest of the money is confirmed, the group will set about raising a further £150,000 from external sources.

“The campaign to get a skatepark started well before the association was set up in 2001 and we think right now we have our best chance with this site,” Mr Stewart said.

“There’s a lot of future planning in Shetland right now and a lot of the responses to scenario planning are saying that not supporting young people will be worse for Shetland in the future.

“The alternative sporting scene is one that’s been ignored. It’s easy to lay down a couple of football pitches, but we have never had a facility to work with and this site would be perfect.”

If councillors agree the grant along with a 25 year lease at a nominal rent, it will help the group raise the funds they have lost due to the delays. They currently have around £24,000 to put towards the project themselves.

 

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