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Pemberton Skate Park opponents flood annual general meeting

Petitioners concerned about impact of electromagnetic field under power lines

Skateboarders are uniting at the 11 th hour to stop construction of a skate park beneath hydro lines in Pemberton.

That's the impression that came out of the Village of Pemberton's annual general meeting on June 29, which saw a host of skaters attend the meeting and voice vehement opposition to Pemberton's plans for a skate park next to the new community centre.

First to speak was Nada Shureih, a Pemberton resident and avid skater who is leading a petition with fellow residents Richard and Michael Klinkhamer.

In the last four days they claim to have gathered almost 500 signatures on a petition that seeks to another location. Their concern is that electromagnetic fields around the power lines cause health issues. Meanwhile a Facebook group has gathered 338 members who oppose the park's current location.

"There's a bunch of us that came here tonight to put a proposal to council about moving the skate park away from the power lines," Shureih said. "The main issue being that power lines give off electromagnetic fields that have been proven to cause cancer."

She went on to say that the people rallying against the skate park are proposing Pioneer Park in downtown Pemberton as an alternate site. The park is located behind the Village of Pemberton office and across the street from the Pemberton Hotel and its adjoining bar.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, sitting alone to face questions from the audience at the Pemberton Community Centre, said the site next to the community centre was identified a number of years ago as a location for the skate park.

"The council went through a community engagement process with regard to the site back in December," he said. "A report came to council in December and then again in January. The decision was confirmed, our online petition had, I think, 30-some-odd responses of which 76 per cent were not concerned with the location."

Council approved the skate park site with a hard heart at its Jan. 12 meeting this year. At the time Councillor Lisa Ames said in a "perfect world" she wouldn't want to approve the location. But she ultimately supported the park in a unanimous council vote.

The Village of Pemberton considered a number of other locations. It looked at Staehli Park and decided against it because it would be incompatible with nearby accommodation and residential uses.

It looked at Pioneer Park but found that they would need to clear trees and brush away before approving it. A report to council also noted that the village would need to deal with "unsavoury behaviour" in the park.

The Community Centre Park, between the centre and the building that houses the Pemberton office of the Whistler Real Estate Company and the Mount Currie Coffee Company, was also considered. The village's only concern with that location was a desire for an open space park that could accommodate a number of uses.

Ultimately council chose the site beneath the power lines because they felt it ideal for the skate park and they doubted they could find another site in time to fulfill a $245,236 grant from the federal Building Canada and Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.

Responding to concerns about electromagnetic fields, Sturdy said he went through studies by the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Agency and determined that health risks weren't "near as definitive" as Shureih suggested.

Council got some backup from Pemberton resident Lisa Richardson, who said the skate park has gone through decades of hard work to get to where it is now.

"I appreciate that you're using it, but if you're using the argument that we want to protect the children's safety, it's taken 20 years to get it where it is now," she said. "So are you guys ready to carry this for another 20 years to put it in the location you want? Do you have the stamina? Where were you two years ago? Did you express your opinion about the project?"