A pair of young city staff have been watching over the bowls, ramps and rails of the Willow Point Skatepark this summer to make sure it is an enjoyable place for kids.
The City of Campbell River’s skatepark leader program is an effort to provide oversight and guidance at the skatepark, explained Meghan Lawley, the city’s recreation & culture supervisor.
“The program started quite quickly after the park was developed as a way to continue to enhance skateboarding culture in Campbell River,” said Lawley.
The leader’s main job is to make the park a more welcoming and approachable place for those new to skateboarding, scootering or BMX biking, explained Elija Saxby, one of two leaders employed by the city this year.
“The hardest part is just getting out there,” said Saxby. “It was super intimidating to roll up to the park and see so much going on.”
The leaders also help with maintenance or any bumps or scrapes that might arise. But Saxby describes his job as mostly being a role model for the kids at the park.
“A lot of the kids riding scooters I see looking up to me for tricks or maintenance on the scooters,” he said. “I think it’s also (for) motivation — I remember starting when I was little, and seeing you can get to where I am, then you can have a goal.”
Saxby and his colleague also help the kids elevate their skills.
“I let them go at their own pace and give them tips as they go — so you’re not pushing them too far — and giving them a lot of suggestions that they can add to their tricks and the ramps to try them on,” he said.
Last week, Saxby helped coach a five-year-old drop into the park’s bowl for the first time. After the young scooterer was looking hesitant at its edge, the pair worked together on technique on one of the park’s smaller ramps. Not long after that, Saxby’s pupil successfully dropped in.
“Now he’s riding so much of the park, because he’s learning everything so quickly,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Saxby has seen many young riders improve dramatically over the summer.
“I’ve seen them go from doing some beginner tricks into some more advanced tricks — it’s just cool to watch them grow.”
To find the leaders at the park, kids just have to look for the white tent at the edge of the park or find them by their bright orange shirts, explained Royce Prichard, the skatepark leader programmer.
The leaders also give parents an opportunity to introduce to sports with which they might be unfamiliar, explained Pritchard.
“By knowing these guys are here, you can bring your kids down, and know there’s somebody that helps instruct them or just makes sure their equipment is in the proper working order — and making it an enjoyable space,” he said.
For this parents are appreciative, said Saxby.
“They just love to see us out there and feel safer sending their kids to the skatepark,” he said.