It was the unofficial start of the skateboarding season in Calgary.
On Saturday, volunteers, skateboarders and other young athletes gathered at Shaw Millennium Park for the annual skate park cleanup, but with Calgary seeing a mild winter organizers say past events have involved much more work.
“It will mostly just be picking up larger pieces of garbage, sweeping up problem areas [where] garbage accumulates over time, especially on a windy day like today,” said Zev Klymochko co-chair and co-founder of the Calgary Association of Skateboarding Enthusiasts.
Most present at Millennium Park on Saturday afternoon were already skateboarding, biking and even scooting around the facility. Klymochko feels events like the cleanup highlight unique aspects of the sport and its community.
“Skateboarding is unlike any other activity where there’s an automatic stewardship that goes along with people wanting to take care of the facility,” he said. “You’ll see that there’s been some informal repairs done by the skateboarders here and that’s just utter-necessity to keep the park safe.”
In previous years, everything from shopping carts to broken skateboards have been found during the cleanup.
Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley was on hand at Saturday’s event and he said the sport has matured significantly when compared to its beginnings; a time when skateboarders were looked down upon.
“We’ve come a long way in skateboarding, it’s a healthy, popular, incredible activity to participate in — and it’s cool,” he said, noting spots like Millennium Park serve as an important gathering place for many groups.
When asked if he feels events like the cleanup will help address skateboarding’s once bad reputation, he said the public’s perception has changed over the last several decades.
“I don’t think that stigma really exists anymore and if it does, it means that someone really hasn’t looked around to see the world around them,” Woolley said.
He feels the stereotype of the punk skateboarder “has been shattered” and noted the skateboarding community is one of many that make Calgary a diverse place to live.
“Just because you don’t participate in an activity,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not important.”
Established in 2000, the Millennium Park skate park is set to undergo “significant repairs” this summer.