KAMLOOPS — It’s become a common sight at Rae Mor Park in Rayleigh: Merek De Witt, along with his brother Owen and any number of friends out taking advantage the newest addition to the park space, a skatepark, built last November.
“There’s always people down here,” De Witt told CFJC Today. “I come [either] late in the afternoon and there are one or two people here, or I come right after school there’s usually some younger kids here which is really nice to see.”
If not for Merek and Owen, there likely wouldn’t be a skatepark in Rayleigh. Two years ago, the pair began advocating for an improvement to the recreational space in the community.
“The first thing we did was emailed all the councillors and the mayor,” De Witt recalled. “They told us steps that we needed to take and they told us we needed support. So we planned a petition drive. We had a BBQ down here at the park and told everybody ‘This is where the skatepark is going to be.’ Then we got kids to go out on their bikes… they went door-to-door to get people to sign the petition for the skatepark.”
The brothers went to budget meetings, organizing community members to come to show their support. They also took the time to research different suppliers and styles of ramps that would work for the park.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian called the effort to get the skatepark built "a lesson in civics," crediting the patience and perseverance of the two brothers in sticking with the process.
“It’s about having an idea, following it through… getting the support of the neighbourhood, about coming to budget meetings… working with our civic operations and parks staff,” Christian said at Saturday’s opening. “It’s a lot of work, but the end of that is today, the end of that is this park.”
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar was the Mayor when Merek made his query to city hall. He says he’s happy to see that this project has come together, thanks to the group’s hard work and perseverance.
“I gave them a bit of advice to connect with the community and try and get more of the youth engaged,” Milobar said. “To Merek’s credit, he did that… It was really Merek, not only coming up with the idea but willing to put in the time and the effort to keep working to make this happen.”
If the turnout at Saturday’s opening ceremony is any indication, the skatepark will be put to good use by the youth in the Rayleigh community.
For Merek, he wants other young people who want to make a difference to not be afraid to speak up.
“Don’t shy away from it, “ Merek said. “Be brave and go for it.”
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