Gabriola Skatepark fully funded with approval of federal-provincial grants

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Friday, July 3 2020

The Gabriola Skate Park at Huxley Park is $567,354 closer to being built, as the Regional District of Nanaimo has been approved for a federal-provincial grant under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan.

The grant states the funding will be used for the construction of a skatepark in Huxley Park, and will also see completion of the rest of the Huxley Park redevelopment - which includes a covered structure, wooden benches, portable bleachers, garbage cans, new trails to connect to the bus stop and surrounding neighbourhoods, a gravel parking lot, a retaining wall, and chain link fencing.

The federal government will be contributing $309,480; the provincial government total will be $257,874; the Regional District of Nanaimo will be $134,346; and the Keep on Pushin’ Campaign of the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association will be $72,000.

David Reid, President of the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association was contacted Friday morning when the news broke.

The relief, and tears, after many years of frustration could be heard over the phone.

“I’m shaking. Yes. Yes. Sweet. You can quote me on this....yooooo hoooo!”

“Now I want to get this built. I want to have a party. I want to give the whole damn island a hug.”

The current push for a skatepark at Huxley Park began in 2014, as then-RDN Director Howard Houle and RDN Parks staff took on the redevelopment plans that had come from the Huxley Park Management Plan process.

Through a series of consultation meetings at Huxley Park and in other locations, RDN staff and skate park consultants came up with a design that would fit into the north-east corner of Huxley Park, while still leaving room for a parking lot, the two tennis courts, the Sport Court, and the new playground.

In 2017, the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association was formed to raise the seed monies to apply for these very grants announced today.

Between late 2017 and early 2019, the GSFA collected $72,000 in donations of varying sizes from the Gabriola community, including a donation from Ride Free Gabriola.

In January 2019, Vanessa Craig, RDN Director for Gabriola, along with RDN Parks staff, applied for the Infrastructure grants.

GSFA was the fourth iteration of an organization on Gabriola attempting to build a skatepark on the island.

Reid, who has watched the previous three attempts over the past 25 years, said he hopes all those kids from all those years can see this now and it gives them hope.

“I was so afraid we were going to let all those kids down. I was afraid we were going to repeat the same pattern, I was so afraid. I’m so happy.

“Those previous attempts, there were so many of those kids, that was their first experience trying to get adults to move, and they weren’t successful. They emerged into the world thinking that is how how government works. 

“I just hope all those kids are excited. That they can see things take longer than you think, but if you keep pushing you can get things to happen.

“I hope they feel like I do right now. I hope they have goosebumps and they’re crying and laughing at the same time.”

Reid said thank you, to everyone.

“Thanks to the RDN, to the RDN staff so diligently keeping this on the front burner. To Vanessa for keeping it moving forward, thank you to Howard for bringing it back to the table on behalf of the kids in the community. 

“To the businesses, community members, to everyone who put in their nickels, dimes, and who stuck through it and got involved.

“To Ride Free, the kids who went before. This is something the community has been pushing on for 25 years. Gratitude for the whole fricken world that we’re here.

“I’m so happy that we did it. Now let’s get the damn thing built.”

Director Craig said, "I am thrilled that the federal and provincial governments have supported the RDN’s grant application to support the development of Phase 2 of Huxley Park. This is the culmination of many years of fundraising and advocacy by the Ride Free and Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association groups, as well as many other committed community members who have worked to get to this point. Thanks to the RDN Parks staff for their work on this project. With the Village Way Path projected for completion in 2020, and with the announcement today, the village core of Gabriola will be even better able to support active community participation of all age groups."

In terms of a timeline, RDN Parks staff said in January that even if the grants came through, it was unlikely construction would begin in 2020, and that with the Village Way Trail being built, staff time for Gabriola was fully committed.

Director Craig said, "Next steps are to finalize the detailed design of the project, tendering the contract and initiating the construction in Spring 2021 with an estimated completion date in Fall 2021."

The Government of Canada is contributing more than $33.2 million, the Government of British Columbia is contributing over $8.7 million and the individual applicants are contributing more than $12.2 million to these projects through the Community, Culture, and Recreation Infrastructure Stream (CCRIS), and the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream (RNIS) of the Investing in Canada Plan.

More than $23.2 million of the federal and provincial funding is going to eight projects in Indigenous communities.

New investments in community infrastructure by the governments of Canada and British Columbia will benefit Island communities while also supporting economic recovery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic by getting projects under way and meeting communities’ needs as they restart their economies.

Through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.

$25.3 billion of this funding is supporting social infrastructure in Canadian communities.

$2 billion of this funding is supporting infrastructure projects that meet the unique needs of rural and northern communities like facilities to support food security, local access roads and enhanced broadband connectivity. In addition, $400 million is being delivered through the Arctic Energy Fund to advance energy security in the territories.

The governments of Canada and British Columbia are providing more than $134 million for the first intake of project applications under the Community Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream (CCRIS) of the Investing in Canada Plan, and more than $94 million for the first intake under the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream (RNIS).