Grand opening for new skate park in Rayleigh set for this weekend

The Rae-Mor Skate Park has already been well worn-in, with Rayleigh kids shredding through it all summer long. 

But this Saturday (Sept. 8) it will finally have its grand opening, a fitting end to the journey for brothers Owen and Merek De Witte, two young residents who spearheaded bringing the park into existence.

Years ago, Owen first had the idea of getting a skate park for the community, located a good 15-minute drive from the closest one, at McArthur Island Park. But after starting a petition, he didn't really know how to proceed after that. 

"When KAMPLAN (the city's Official Community Plan) first started, we went to one of the meetings in North Hills mall and they had little stations and booths set up and we put, "skate park in Rayleigh" on every single booth," says Janna De Witte, mother of the two boys. "So when (Merek) came in two or three years later and said, 'Hey, I want a skate park in Rayleigh,' it was already on their plan."

Once the boys' aunt, Florence Ballard, moved to Rayleigh and heard Merek complaining that he wanted a skate park nearby, she told him to email the city about the issue. The next day they had responses from three councillors and the mayor. After meeting with the city, they learned what it would take to get the park built: find a suitable location for the park and a company who could design and build something within budget.

The De Wittes sought community engagement. The kids went out with petitions and invited local input on the park's location, eventually settling on a decrepit basketball court in Rae-Mor Park. 

"There are no houses very close, so it's not going to be disturbing anybody and the kids have all been very respectful," says Janna. "So once they learned the location and what the idea was, they were all on board."

(Above: The Rayleigh Skatepark Story from City of Kamloops on Vimeo.)

The kids did have some issue locating a company that would work with them on the design, mostly because most the ones they reached out to wanted to deal with the city directly.

"We looked around, we emailed a bunch of companies and Canadian Ramp Company, they were the best one. They helped us a lot and showed us different designs and we went with the one that we liked and showed it to the city and they liked it too," says Merek.

With a plan all in place, it was time for the community to show its support at the City of Kamloops budget meeting. 

"They told us to get as many people as we could to go to that, so we got a whole ton of people to go, and I think they said it's the most people that have ever been," Merek tells KamloopsMatters.

De Witte says the total budget was around $250,000 and thinks they managed to go under.

Once the project was approved, they were told it could be a while before the park was actually constructed. But to their surprise, the city began replacing the old concrete patch in the spring of 2017 and built the park last winter. This past spring, a few guys from the Kamloops Bike Ranch designed and built the pump track. Some local boys even came out to lend a hand.

The work isn't done for the kids either. They continue to help maintain the pump track and park to help out the parks department.

Over the summer, the park has been used by all ages, even becoming a popular destination for local daycares.

With the entire park completed, the De Wittes decided to wait until school was back so all the kids would be around for the grand opening.

The Sept. 8 festivities start at 10 a.m. and run until 2 p.m. The day will feature demonstrations by Kamloops BMX Club, 808 & Bench, and the Rayleigh Cricket Club, as well as a wrecking ball bounce house, water gun area and the Eats Amore food truck. Mayor Ken Christian will be there for the ribbon cutting.

“If you have a great idea, and it fits the need of the community, it is possible to make it happen, you just have to put the work in. Merek and Owen are a great example of that,” said Jeff Putnam, the city's parks and civic facilities manager, in a press release.

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