Lions’ Club and Ride Free commit funds to building Gabriola Skatepark

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, May 8 2018

(L-R) Gray Switzer, representing Ride Free Gabriola; Howard Houle, RDN Director for Gabriola; skateboarders and skatepark volunteers Tully, Turner, and Tuskar Ivany; Jackson and his grandmother Betsy Banford, President of the Gabriola Lions Club; Dave Reid, President of the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association. Derek Kilbourn photo

The Gabriola Lions’ Club has committed $5,000 to be put towards the construction of the skatepark at Huxley Community Park.

Betsy Banford, president of the Lions’ Club, made the announcement during the opening of Phase 1 of Huxley Park.

The monies will be donated directly to the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN).

The RDN has said it will need the Gabriola community to raise $72,000 by April of 2019 to then proceed with the construction of the skatepark. 

A community group, the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association (GSFA) has been formed to coordinate community efforts to get to that goal.

Howard Houle, Regional Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy), said while the Lions’ donation is going directly to the RDN, the $5,000 will be counted towards the $72,000 total.

Gabriolans may remember the Ride Free organization, which had fundraised for a skatepark in memory of Stephen Smith, starting in 2002.

Smith, an avid skateboarder and BMX rider, had been part of the group from the Gathering Place (now HOPE Centre) who had tried for years to build a skatepark on Gabriola.

He was murdered in Nanaimo.

His family and friends, as well as community members, formed Ride Free to raise monies to build a skatepark in his honour.

While they were unable at the time to make the skatepark a reality, this new movement from the RDN has presented an opportunity for the Ride Free organization to come to some closure and provide monies to the community efforts.

Gray Switzer, speaking on behalf of the Ride Free executive, met recently with Dave Reid and Julie Sperber of the GFSA, as well as with Houle.

Switzer said Ride Free is prepared to donate all the funds in the Ride Free account to the RDN, so long as the RDN and GFSA guarantee that the funds will only be used for building a skatepark on Gabriola.

Houle said that like the Lions’ donation, anything Ride Free contributes towards the skatepark will be reflected as part of the $72,000 being asked of Gabriola.

Regular donations to the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association can be made at the Gabriola branch of the Coastal Community Credit Union.

Just ask for the Keep on Pushin’ or Skatepark Association account.

Online donations can be made through

For those wishing to contribute on a monthly basis, the GFSA is working on setting up a system at the Credit Union whereby automatic payments can be made each month during the fundraising campaign.

This coming Monday, May 14, the Gabriola Skatepark Fundraising Association is hosting a public meeting for anyone who wants to volunteer or otherwise take part in the fundraising drive to find $72,000 by April 2019. All ages are welcome. The meeting will start at 7pm at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre.