Two skateparks, two basketball courts to close temporarily this weekend for pandemic safety

The City will re-close two skateparks and two basketball courts this weekend to protect public health in four violation-hotspots. 

The skateparks that will be closed Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31, are: McKernan (112 Street and 75 Avenue NW) and Castledowns (153 Avenue and 115 Street NW).

The basketball courts that will be closed on the same days are: Blue Quill (112 Street and 25 Avenue NW) and Florence Hallock (near 164 Avenue and 87 Street NW). 

“Unfortunately, there have been enforcement challenges with users of skateparks and basketball courts,” Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin told a physically distanced meeting of Edmonton City Council. 

“Physical distancing protocols have been ignored and these amenities have regularly attracted gatherings of more than 50 people.” 

The specific skateparks and basketball courts will reopen on Monday, June 1, Laughlin said. The weekends are the particular challenges for those four locations, he said. A decision will be made later next week on the status of the four locations for the weekend of June 6 and June 7. 

Enforcement ahead

Courts and skateparks were among the hundreds of outdoor facilities where public health warning signs went up toward the end of last week. 

Example of AHS public health rules signage on display at City outdoor recreation facilities.

As of Monday, May 25, 120 public complaints about perceived rule contraventions were received by 311 and on the AHS hotline. The City issued 251 warnings in parks, playgrounds and sports courts. Another 142 warnings were issued at skate parks. 

These were warnings for physical distancing, using and sharing equipment and for gatherings of more than 50 people, Laughlin said. 

Laughlin, bottom, middle, addresses physically distanced City Council meeting where skatepark and basketball court was discussed.

David Aitken, the City’s COVID-19 Task Team chair, said new signage will go up at the four locations in time for Saturday morning. In addition, he said, Peace Officers will monitor the areas on the weekend, keep an eye out for anyone using the parks or courts, explain the rules to them, and, if necessary, issue tickets. 

Laughlin added: “Enforcement officials typically address non-compliance with education and warnings, but the on-going nature of this behavior has resulted in an excessive need for enforcement.” 

Blue Quill basketball court in background, May 28, 2020.

Laughlin was clear when asked by Councillor Bev Esslinger what could happen if the skatepark and basketball court weekend closures simply led to boarders and players packing into facilities that remain open.

“If we see that movement happening, we may need to reconsider re-closure to minimize the risk,” Laughlin said. 

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows the McKernan skatepark on May 19, 2020, before being reopened.