Snow crunches under Peter Wilson’s feet as he walks over a site he’s visualized for years. For now it’s filled with equipment used by the public works department, a barrel of mangled ski poles and a small plow.
His goal is that by 2021 the dirt will be transformed into a 4,000 square foot skate park with a medium size street course and quarter pipe.
The project is something Wilson has been a part of since 2015 when he took over as acting director of the Sun Peaks Skate Park Foundation (SPSPF) from founder Adam Earle.
Since then he’s focused on building support from the ground up, slowly infiltrating many areas of the community with grassroots initiatives. Things like partial profits from beer sold at 5-Forty or Morrisey’s Public House helped the group slowly build interest and grow their bank account.
But this year has been full steam ahead for Wilson and his team as they move ahead with plans to complete engineering, design, geotechnical surveys, and finalize a site in the East Village at a cost of around $30,000.
With the help of Jim Barnum from New Line Skateparks, SPSPF has created a three phase planning and design timeline and a four phase construction timeline that aims for completion in 2021, alongside what should become a permanent school and recreation area in Sun Peaks.
“We’ve been biding our time and playing the patience game knowing that it would have to be in sync with the school. Knowing we’d have to be in sync with growth in the community,” Wilson said.
The planning and design phase is estimated to take seven months to complete alongside a significant fundraising effort, taking them from the $13,000 raised by Oct. 30 to the $500,000 plus needed to finish the project.
This fall those lofty goals have been helped by the Ullr Party fundraiser which brought in over $10,000 and the annual Firefighter’s Society Gala, for which SPSPF was selected as one of two beneficiaries for this year. Wilson said being selected as a gala charity and a recent presentation to council served to further legitimize the cause.
“We’ve been really trying to get to the gala, it’s a turning point…the ball is rolling, we have traction. The timing couldn’t be better for the gala. I really feel traction is happening from all kinds of levels.”
Wilson’s daughter, Olivia Martin, spoke on behalf of SPSPF at the event and described growing up in Sun Peaks and missing the accessible community centrepiece a skate park becomes.
It’s one of the reasons that drives Wilson to work on the project.
“Directly, it would be for my five-year-old boy Jack River and his buds. After that it’s for visitors and people who live here.”
But he has personal reasons to be passionate about the project too. When his mother, Nancy Wilson, died it gave him a community.
“I started skateboarding at 30. Only because my peers were doing it and I had a good 10 year run. I took it really seriously. It was something really important to me when my mum died, it was somewhere I could go that was free and always open. So I did some grieving at the skate park.
“It all started at Kenny Dale’s at the half pipe, and I kind of got into it and I stuck with it.”
Kenny Dale, also a member of SPSPF, has skateboarded for 45 years and is an outspoken supporter of the group.
“I’m still an avid skater,” he said. “I skate at least once or twice a week. In town and we travel around, and at my house we have a halfpipe.
“I’ve grown up skateboarding myself and seen it evolve over the years. There are skate parks all over the world now. You can take a skateboard anywhere and enjoy yourself and generally it’s for free. All you really pay is some skin now and then.”
Barnum, senior designer and project manager from New Line said in projects they’ve worked on in places like Whistler, Revelstoke and Banff, or even as far away as France, Sweden or China, the community has gained a lot.
“The number one thing is people are surprised at how much a skate park is used. The other thing that surprises people is the variety of ages that use it, from five to people like me, who are 50 and still skating.
“Having a place for this segment of the community to go (is great). To bring this non-joining part of the community into the fold.”
Dale said he’s also seen users of all ages.
“It’s great for camaraderie. You go to a skate park and you see kids of all ages, people trying to get better and learn a trick who do it over and over.”
Despite the growing wave of support Wilson said he still hears from naysayers who believe in the stereotype of skate parks and skate culture being bad for a community.
“You just kind of want to pat them on the head and say, ‘Okay, Boomer’…I have to bite my tongue. The headwind at times has been unbelievable. You just look at the person across the table from you and ask is this for real? Is this really what you’re thinking? You have to be a bit patient.
“I’ve been flat out looked at and said this isn’t a feasible project which is disheartening. You have to go home and shake your head and go ‘as if.’ If you’re supposed to be the fastest growing municipality and you’re not considering a skate park we’ve got bigger social issues, it can’t just be happy retired (people)…There’s other people, there’s other groups that take ownership of this mountain just the same.”
But the noise of the cynics is being drowned out more and more each day as the group gains momentum.
“There’s a lot of growth in the community over the past few years. Real estate and a school and a lot of things are really taking off. To experience it firsthand…I’ve been here since 1990, I don’t think there are too many people in the world who get to watch a community grow like this, and then to have a small fingerprint on part of it.
“I’m really proud to see my mum’s name on the wall of the health clinic. She really impressed upon me that if you want to get things done you have to do it.”
From around the globe in Australia, founder Earle has watched the seeds he helped plant steadily grow.
“It is with great pleasure as I watch from afar these days and see so many people in Sun Peaks helping raise money for the SPSPF as this great cause moves forward,” he said. “The fundraisers for the SPSPF seem to abound with a community focused on getting concrete in the ground and skateboards rolling.”
Next up for Wilson and the group is growing their team. While the first design phases get underway recruiting will take place for members who support the cause and can work on grant writing, corporate sales and volunteer coordination to take them to the next level.
“We’ve been very patient but now is the time.”
There’s a lot of work, and expenses, ahead but Wilson said he is keeping focused on a dream he’s had for years.
“It would be really cool to have an Olympic skateboarder come out of Sun Peaks,” he said. “Out of a civil project that we all slaved on. I mean that would be ideal. You know if you get a young buck or a young girl it’s a four year turnaround. So you know we could pull this off (and in) four years get someone to the Olympics for skateboarding out of Sun Peaks, that would’ve been on nobody’s radar. And my mum would have been really proud.”
Earle shared the same long term vision for the community addition.
“I really look forward to one day returning to Sun Peaks on a sunny summer day and rolling into a smooth multi-tiered skate bowl surrounded by visiting skate tourists, Sun Peaks locals, their kids or grandkids and maybe even a future Olympic medalist.”
The vision makes the work worth it for Wilson.
“I would be lying if the skate park hasn’t taken some days off the end of my life. It’s a civil project, there’s a lot of moving parts. If all things go right we’re breaking ground in the spring. Even just to get the rough site services done.
“I want it to be free…I want it to be a focal point for all ages and genders…it has to be user friendly. The drive with this project is very much a community.”