Seven-year-old Ahousaht local Gerard John has a blast cycling around his community’s new skatepark. The park was built by survivors of the Leviathan II tragedy. (Marcie Callewaert Photo)

Seven-year-old Ahousaht local Gerard John has a blast cycling around his community’s new skatepark. The park was built by survivors of the Leviathan II tragedy. (Marcie Callewaert Photo)

Ahousaht skatepark a healing journey for Leviathan survivors

“We have now formed a strong connection to the area and have some lifelong friends there.”

MARCIE CALLEWAERT

Special to the Westerly

The Ahousaht skatepark project was born from the tragedy of the Leviathan II capsizing in October 2015.

Dwayne Mazereeuw, his wife, Elisa Kasha, and 19 others were pulled from the water by Ahousaht water taxis that responded to the capsizing.

Mazereeuw recalls that when he and Kasha “found out that Get on Board and Landyachtz Longboards were working towards getting a skatepark built in Ahousaht, [they] knew it was the perfect opportunity to say thank you.”

Mazereeuw works for Newline Skateparks in Calgary, Alberta, which allowed for the perfect collaboration with the Ahousaht Nation and other organizations to make this long dreamed of park, a reality.

Mazereeuw became interested in skateboarding at the age of six. He has made “a career out of doing something that [he] love’[s]” and that is part of what Mazereeuw wanted to pass on to the youth of Ahousaht.

There are limited recreational activities on Flores Island, a 35-minute water taxi ride from Tofino.

“Not everyone is into team sports, so a skatepark gives these individuals an activity that allows them to be active and express themselves.”

Mazereeuw and his family returned to Ahousaht in June of this year and “after just a few months of having the new park the kids are really starting to progress,” he said.

“The age range spanned from toddlers rolling over the pump bumps to teenagers learning new tricks in the bowl end. It was amazing to see the park getting so much use.

“The by-product of getting involved in the skatepark project was that it gave my wife and I the opportunity to go back to Tofino and Ahousaht, which has really helped with our own personal healing after such a traumatic experience. We were both deeply affected by the accident and returning has helped us to face our fears and work at moving our lives forward. Getting back on a boat in the same waters that nearly took our lives was not an easy thing to do but each time we do, it gets just a little bit easier.”

Mazereeuw also commented that “the project has also allowed us to reconnect with our rescuers, and others that helped that day, both in Ahousaht and Tofino. We have now formed a strong connection to the area and have some lifelong friends there.”

Mazereeuw and Newline Skateparks have built skateparks around Canada and in “some pretty amazing locations, however the view from the Ahousaht skatepark is definitely one of the best… It is amazing to now have a skatepark right on the beach with the mountain views in the background. It is magical!”

Patti Charleson, Deputy Chief Councillor with the Ahousaht First Nation commented that the park is used on a “daily basis, rain or shine.”

The long-term plan is to add benches and a picnic area as the surrounding grounds are landscaped further. It will be a much needed “full family fun space.”

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