Skatepark ‘best in Canada’ Less than a week away from heaven for street skaters By Paul Andrew The long wait to ride concrete powder is almost over for hundreds of locals and dozens of out-of town skateboarders who ride the Whistler skatebowls. A state-of-the-art street style skatepark built with the help of cutting edge engineering will be ready to ride Sept. 29, just four days over the self-imposed deadline by skatepark co-ordinator/consultant Jim Barnum. And the late summer sunshine and warm weather couldn’t have come at a better time for all those involved in what was essentially a community project that may not have been finished if not for the help of few local contractors, numerous volunteers, an open minded municipality, and at least one dedicated designer, who now has an example of his work to showcase to other municipalities which require street-style skatepark expertise. "I’m stoked — we’re all stoked," Barnum said Tuesday. "This park is the best in Canada right now. I really can’t believe it’s actually over." Barnum, who initiated the park with the help of others at least two years ago, began his own skate park consulting business half-way through the construction of the park in the summer. He finished the park as a municipal employee. But like so many others in Whistler, who have been riding the rails and curbs of Whistler’s steps and streets, Barnum is looking forward to scale the concrete quarterpipes and tricky tabletops and transitions that combine to make the park unique. In addition, the existing skatebowls adjacent to Fitzsimmons Creek are connected to the street style skatepark via the asphalt ramps at either end of the new skating arena. But the construction of the curvy, circular obstacles comprising the new skatepark is perhaps the most significant engineering feat achieved by concrete experts who normally design bridges and three-panel concrete walls for housing. A new fibre that is some three inches long was mixed into a "shotcrete" solution to not only strengthen the concrete for the high-impact landings typical of skateboarders, but also to protect the park from cracking during the freeze and thaw process. "Every job we do is unique it seems," said James Parent, who led a six-man crew during the last eight weeks of concrete work on the park. "We did about six weeks of spraying (the shotcrete), and holding that hose... well, there’s a lot of pressure there. But the solution is new. It hasn’t been used anywhere. It’s been tested at AGRA and it’s the strongest ever as far as I know." Bob Fulton, who operates Fulton Engineering in Delta, said his firm and AGRA Earth and Environmental laboratories worked together on the mix. Fulton said the synthetic fibres used in the 20-foot quarterpipes were developed at Dalhousie University, and the ICS, 3-D concrete panelling used in the other parts of the park have withstood hurricanes in the Caribbean, Florida and North Carolina. "We’re pretty innovative in structural engineering," Fulton said. "We use the panelling in a lot of housing projects that have to be strong. There were only 12 buildings left standing in one Caribbean town where a hurricane hit and this panelling was the reason they survived." So it’s a pretty good bet the skaters in Whistler will get some good use out of Whistler’s latest, world-class facility. Final tallies aren’t in yet, but Barnum said earlier this summer that the park would come in at under $300,000 for the completed structure. What do the skaters say? "It’s sick, just look at it," said four-year Whistler skater Roland Hould. "It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. There’s a lot of transitions here and some nice verts for the skaters from the East. The pros will rip it up in this park. There’s going to be some world-class competition here for sure." For Barnum, who at one point during the two-summer construction of the park was overwhelmed with delays and co-ordination, and who was disappointed at this summer’s volunteer turn-out, the finished product was difficult to imagine much less see through to the ultimate conclusion this week. "We know everybody wants to skate on it — especially me. But we have to let it cure for a week first," he said on Sept. 21. "But this park is amazing — the best in Canada. Seeing it in the design stage on a computer and now in real life, I couldn’t imagine it." Editor’s note: Photo has Roland Hould, Mike Osachuk and Nigel Beaupre sitting on one of the quarterpipes in the new park.