Merek De Witte’s dream of a skate park in Rayleigh is now a reality.
The city’s new Rae-Mor Skate Park received its grand opening on Saturday and 14-year-old Rayleigh resident Merek was there to see what has come from an idea he and his brother Owen had years ago.
Since first contacting the city with a vision for the park in 2016, Merek has been on the receiving end of what Mayor Ken Christian called "a lesson in civics.”
“It’s about having an idea and following it through and getting support of the neighbourhood, about budget meetings, about being patient, about working with our parks and recreation staff and dealing with suppliers,” Christian told the gathered crowd.
It’s a lesson Merek likely won’t forget.
“It takes a lot of work, a lot of people and a lot of communication, too,” he told KTW. “You have to know people and get connections.”
Merek said he and his brother, along with his aunt who "did all the typing and everything like that,” worked with the city to make the park a reality.
Prior to the park's creation, Merek said his only option was a 20-minute car ride into town to go to the skate park on McArthur Island.
The park’s opening is also welcome news to Landon Muzio, who co-owns 808 & Bench, a skate and apparel shop downtown on Third Avenue. Muzio was at the park on Saturday, offering skateboard trials for anyone who wanted to try their luck on the concrete.
“It’s great because we want to keep skateboarding alive in this city. We want to embrace more people into the culture,” he said.
Muzio said said he thinks the design and location is ideal for the neighbourhood and is “well-rounded” with beginner to intermediate obstacles.
“I think it will do really well and grow a lot of skill out of this area,” he said.
Skaters organize for their parks’ sake
The opening coincides with another development in the world of Kamloops skateboarding.
The night before the event, the Kamloops Skateboard Association held its first meeting.
The non-profit organization is an effort by Muzio and five others — so far — who will meet with city staff and other groups to advocate for improvements and new skating spaces in Kamloops.
Muzio said he sees skateboarding culture expanding in the city and wants to make sure it has the room to grow.
“Now that I’m older and don’t skate as much as I used to, I’d still like to be a part of the community and become an advocate,” he said.
While the group is still in the application process for grants and funding, its first meeting was held to help outline its objectives.
Muzio said some ideas on the table include better lighting for parks so skaters can continue into the night and rehabilitating the skate park downtown near Pioneer Park, which he said is “decrepit, old and out of date.”