By Terry Schonberger
David Fradkin stands poised on his worn-in skateboard as he glides carelessly past Lake Devo on Gould Street.
Nearing the 26-year-old pond, the Ryerson student shrinks in disappointment and comes face to face with a metallic fence. It encompasses tremendous boulders and smooth concrete ring that were once so inviting to students. He picks up his board and stares in disbelief for a long time, waiting by the barrier to see if others will arrive.
But they don’t come. Fradkin is among scores of skaters who will not be able to perform an Ollie, a 50/50 or a kick-flip on the pond for the next year. That’s because Ryerson is currently undertaking a new construction project that will transform the Art Deco building at 297 Victoria St. into space for Continuing Education offices and classes.
Barriers have been placed as a safety precaution along the northwest corner of Gould and Victoria streets, cutting off access to the pond. “I’m bummed,” said boarder Che Lemmon.
“It’s a big part of life for students, skateboarding. Now it’s gone from here.”
Devonian Square Park has been attracting students like Fradkin, Lemmon and Ngozi Hendrickson for nearly three years and the rest of Ryerson has found it a prime meeting space since its opening.
Boarders praise the pond for its surface and circular ledge, creating optimal conditions for successful stunts. It serves as a congregating place for skateboarders to practise and keep their connection with others.
“The pond was a meeting area before,” Fradkin explained. “It was a safe haven. We never got kicked out, never got in trouble. I guess we’ll have to branch off to other places.”
Because of its aesthetically pleasing multi-coloured stone boulders and trees, Lake Devo is also an ideal spot for boarders to film “sponsor-me” videos-amateur street skater ads that are submitted to corporations. For some boarders this is an opportunity for a big break into the realm of professional or semi-pro skateboarding.
“If I can make money off of my passion, why not? I won’t need to have a real job,” Hendrickson said.
Even when Lake Devo reopens, the layout of the urban park will have changed. Boulders on the south end of the park will be moved to make way for the building, said Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse.
Last year, Lake Devo’s designer, Richard Strong, expressed concerns over the fate of the park once construction started. Lajeunesse said Ryerson kept the fa?ade of the Art Deco building intact to maintain its historical value.
“I’m sure that it will be exactly the same with the boulders-that whatever is done with the boulders will respect the heritage that they bring,” he said. “But at the same time you have to move on and you need to build a building, and you need to have a building that is not going to have a boulder in front of one entrance.”
Now in search of new areas to skateboard and film the videos, boarders have looked into Dundas Square as an alternative location. However, boarders are skeptical about skating in open areas like Dundas Square because they feel threatened by police presence in the area. “It seems like we’re breaking the law,” Hendrickson said.
Some boarders allege Toronto Police have booted them from the pond, but Const. Isabelle Cotton, from 51 Division, said there are no legal ramifications for skateboarding on public property.
However, when boarders skate on park property, they might be fined. “On park property, usually we give them a P.O.T. (Provincial Offence Ticket). But it’s okay on other property,” she said.
For now, boarders are trying to figure out where to take their passion. Bickford Community Centre has been hailed as a temporary new meeting place.
More permanent arrangements are being made by students to board at an abandoned warehouse near Front Street and the Don Valley Parkway.
“There’s a good foundation in an old building,” Fradkin said. “We’ll figure it out.”