A staple on the Island bike scene for 11 years, the North Saanich Free Ride Park is responding to growing community interest by holding a beer and pizza silent auction fundraiser.
The May 10 event is being held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at popular eatery The Fickle Fig, with gourmet pizza and local Howl craft beers on the menu.
Greater Victoria businesses have thrown their support behind the event, with goodies including hotel stays, spa treatments, framed dirt jumping photos and Mothers Day gifts.
New park president Stephen Parslow is keen to build on the work of previous organizers Mark Matthews and Denis Paquette.
“One of the neat things about the park is the broad spectrum of the community that uses it. When I got involved I thought it would be a big teenager thing but what I’ve come to realize is what a great resource it is for parents and grandparents and others in the community.”
He estimates that 50 per cent of users are teenagers and older, with the other 50 per cent being kids and even toddlers.
“It’s a great resource for people to take their kids out in a stress free location, where they know they are safe and the kids can explore their boundaries and build their skills,” he says.
“One of our members got her degree while her kid played at the park. She would take all her coursework and sit at the picnic table in the shade while her kid would ride.”
The park is the biggest in the CRD and is completely volunteer run.
Hundreds of riders use it each week and its operation and maintenance is funded through donations, needing between $5,000–$8,000 a year. The volunteers, especially the start of year build-crew, put in many hours of their own time, with the Build Director working 300 unpaid hours.
This passion for a valuable community resource has led to some ambitious plans for the season and near future.
The management team are planning on adding two new lines and building a viewing platform, with raised roll-in deck. The platform will have picnic tables for parents and spectators to relax and take photos while the riders are in action. Parslow is keen on securing additional funding over the next few years to buy steel-framed wooden lips, to be added to the jumps. These lips would be installed on the take off and landing zones of jumps, providing a safer and more satisfying experience, as well as limiting run wear and tear. The $5,000 lips would require significant funding and Parslow hopes the park can buy more each year, funds permitting.
An exciting event possibly on the horizon, is the return of the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour (FMB), which came to North Saanich last year. Parslow reports talks are going well and hopes are high to repeat the event. The competition drew spectators from all over the Island and B.C., and if repeated would give hot local riders, like Bryce Starling and Tharen Markle, the chance to win points on their quest to join the FMB pro circuit.
Parslow sees the silent auction fundraiser as a chance to raise funds and also thank the community.
“Without the community we’re nothing, so we really appreciate everyone’s support.”