Kamloops teen working with city to realize Rayleigh skateboard park dream | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops teen working with city to realize Rayleigh skateboard park dream

Kamloops middle school student Merek De Witte, 13, has taken the lead in an effort to get a skateboard park built in Rayleigh.
November 17, 2016 - 11:30 AM

KAMLOOPS - For the kids of Rayleigh there isn’t always a lot to do, so a local 13-year-old has decided to lead the charge for a new skateboard park in Kamloops.

Merek De Witte has been lobbying city councillors and administration on behalf of his friends and peers for a new skateboard park and pump track for bicycles. The middle school student says the park and track would be a big boost for the community, since it’s a long way into the city from his neighbourhood.

“It would help Rayleigh grow, it would make it a better place,” he says.

The project became a family affair over the past year. It wasn’t De Witte’s idea in the first place, but he’s been the champion behind the recent surge of support.

“My brother came up with the idea two years ago and we never really started on the idea,” he says.

His mother, Janna De Witte, says it’s Merek and her sister who really got thing started.

“He talked and talked and talked about it and finally my sister said 'Enough talking, what do you want to do? How do you want to tackle it?’” she says.

Since April, when Merek and his aunt sent an email to city council and the mayor, things have picked up steam.

“I did a petition in Rayleigh and we got 642 signatures,” Merek says. “We had quite a lot of people come out and help.”

His mother says while most people were supportive of the idea, some were skeptical, but once they were shown the location at the end of Arab Run Road in a park next to the tennis courts and behind the baseball fields, they were more supportive.

“They had a couple people who said ‘We’re concerned,’” she says. “They came with a bit of skepticism and once we explained it they were like, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea, we like it.’”

City parks director Byron McCorkell says he’s met with the Merek and is impressed.

“They’ve done a lot of work,” he says. “For a young man he’s done a fine job of putting that together.”

At the Nov. 15 public city budget meeting Merek, his family and a couple dozen friends and supporters were on hand to lobby councillors and staff in person, which has an estimated to cost of around $250,000. A skateboard company has already created a design for free.

“They’ve been very helpful,” Merek says. “They’ve been patient; we’ve asked a couple times and they’ve sent quite a few designs.”

For now it’s in the city’s hands, as the administration works on the 2017 budget. If approved McCorkell estimates it'll take over a year to build.

De Witte's mother says it’s been fun to watch her son and his friends learn first hand how local government works.

“It’s been a really good influence,” she says. “It’s neat to see all of his friends connect with how things happen and how things go in politics.”

However, Merek doesn't see a future for himself in municipal politics.

“Not really,” he says. “I just kinda want to get the skatepark.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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