There’s a tension between those who govern and police society (small “g” and “p”) and those who want to make the most of the environment in which they live.
- It’s the tension that erects fences to make narrow footpaths safe but end up spoiling sightlines around the more wobbly part of the Giants’ Causeway.
- It’s also the tension that puts up signs listing the byelaws in place around the Waterfront Hall (banning skateboarding) but knowing full well that skaters will want to try out the steps and shapes that the Waterfront offers.
So I’m a little bemused by Belfast City Council’s plan to build a quarter of a million pound urban sports park in a derelict site under the M3 flyover at Nelson Street, catering for skateboarding, in-line skating, parkour as well as BMXing. (There’s a jerky computer-generated video to show how it might look.)
Although way outside my field of expertise, I’m not convinced how many people will regularly use the park. Maybe it will attract younger children and teenagers with their families to practice in a safe environment?
But isn’t the whole point of urban sports that they’re urban? In the middle of the hustle and bustle of urban life? Using and enjoying the urban landscape? On show to the public? Not constrained to an admittedly well-equipped and designed park?
It’s good to see that the Belfast Urban Sports organisation is on board. They should know what they’re talking about rather than my uneducated opinions. And it’s good that young people (the customers) were surveyed - though the report doesn’t make clear which of the park’s activities those surveyed were representing. And a well designed park will surely help attract UK and European competitions to the park. (Assuming there’s room for spectators!)
But I have a suspicion that I’ll still see skateboarders spectacularly jumping the steps at the end of the bridge in Lanyon Place, and the parkour experts will be throwing themselves off the street furniture in Writers Square in front of Stan’s Cathedral.