The campaigning effort by youth in Oliver for funding their skate park revitalization was successful, with the announcement that Oliver Small Wheels Skate Park is receiving $100,000 from the BCAA Play Here program. The project was narrowed down as one of the six finalists in the province out of nearly 300, and residents in B.C. were asked to vote to determine the top three winners who would receive the grand prize and the runners-up who would receive lesser amounts. (Contributed)

BCAA Play Here awards $100,000 for Oliver skate park revitalization

The project was voted for by residents across B.C. after being selected as a top six finalist

Thanks to the British Columbia Automobile Association and its Play Here program, Oliver is closer than ever to revitalizing its skate park.

“$100,000 is the tipping point for us to be actually able to do the project, so it’s huge,” said Carol Sheridan, the manager of the Oliver Parks and Recreation Society.

According to Sheridan, the community has been fundraising for the past five years to turn the Oliver Small Wheels Playground into a more usable space for families. She explained that the society intends to use the original cement foundation and will remove the existing structures which have been worn down over time, replacing them with six new ones that can be used by people of all abilities and ages.

“We have done a lot of work to get to this point. We have surveyed the site itself, and the concrete slab that the features are on, the integrity is good. So the idea is to remove the existing features, which were either built with existing flaws or have broken down over time, and then we’ll build six new features that would allow us to use the entire space,” said Sheridan. “We’re also going to add some pathways so people have an easier time getting to the park. Then all of a sudden we’ll have this play space that not only a handful of people can use, but kids of all ages and abilities on scooters, skateboards, bikes. It’s making it a hub for all of that activity.”

READ MORE: Penticton parents on a quest to raise funds for new playground

Sheridan said she was pleasantly surprised to see the community fully come behind the society’s bid in the Play Here competition, with residents promoting the contest on their own social media to garner more votes and even posting their own videos of the current skate park. She said this has a huge impact on keeping them in the top three of the finalists since their support became far-spread and not just out of the community itself.

“I was worried, I’m not going to lie, but only because we’re small. But most of the communities involved in this competition were small. But I didn’t know how we were going to compete with Vancouver Island and Vancouver, and then what you realize is that the opportunity the BCAA actually gave us is the exposure,” said Sheridan. “Because everyone in the province hears about it, so it opens up the doors for us to talk to people in other communities. And the voice of our youth was heard across the province, that’s the opportunity that we had.”

With the announcement that skateboarding will be an official sport in the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be hosted in Tokyo, Japan, Sheridan said it’s important to provide usable space for kids and adults who want to pursue that endeavour. She added that from the society’s point of view, it allows them to offer more programming for residents as well.

“When you have these built environments, you can program them and have them doing more stuff. We’d love to run camps and clinics and lessons and events, but there’s nothing that the kids can skate on there. There’s nothing we can do,” said Sheridan. “Once this new park is built, which the kids help come up with this concept, then we can start to integrate our programming, and even hire kids to supervise at the park. So it’s teaching kids how to be better athletes and community members, too.”

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