Ucluelet Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club is holding true to its unofficial ‘Drinking for the Kids’ motto.
The ANAF donated empty bottles and cans to Ucluelet’s BMX park in 2023, racking up an impressive tally of $1,327 in 2023.
“The one thing we really notice around here, and in every small town, is you’ve got to have something for the kids to do in between school and other activities,” Cody Morrison of the ANAF told the Westerly News at the park. “This park can grow with these kids and something for these kids to do that keeps them out of trouble for the most part is a great thing, so the ANAF loves it and we’re super happy to be partnered with it.”
The funding went towards keeping the jumps maintained throughout the summer as well as a new pump track—a looping sequence of banked turns—being installed by Dylan King of Earthwave Landscapes who told the Westerly the additional feature will help set the table for beginners finding their groove.
“It’s also great fitness and skill building and a way to warm up and cool down before and after a session,” King said. “It builds a lot of skill and it’s a fundamental that you should always brush up on, even when you’re a pro.”
He added he’s also working on more advanced jumps.
“If you don’t have the advanced stuff, the kids don’t have anything to strive towards and it gets kind of boring and they move onto something else. You’ve got to keep it captivating for them by having a bit of ‘wow factor’ and things to look up to,” he said. “It’s hard because it takes hard work and determination so it’s only for people with a determined attitude. It builds a lot of skill. It builds a lot of self-mastery. It takes hard work and dedication, but there’s something beautiful about the simplicity of it and being able to provide places for it that are actually BMX specific parks.”
King has been working on the district’s BMX park for about six years and has a long history with the sport.
He was born and raised in Vancouver and helped build one of the first public dirt jump parks at Vanier Park.
“Growing up in a rough part of Vancouver and, kind of not having a lot, I didn’t have a lot of money for mountain biking or skiing or snowboarding, a lot of the things other people were doing…BMX turned what would have been kind of a prison growing up in the city into a playground and like an urban jungle and a way to kind of rage against the machine and rebel a little bit in a creative way and a physical way,” he said.
“It kind of started off as a fun way of rebelling and led to self-mastery. It’s led to so much. It was such an affordable thing for me. I could always keep a BMX running. It was easy to do, all I needed was a 6mm allen key and a 17mm wrench to keep my bike running and I could ride skateparks, I could build dirt jumps, I could ride streets, jump off walls and handrails and stuff. It was always great.”
King then moved to Vancouver Island and began collecting maintenance contracts for existing bike parks, finding no shortage of sites in need of repair.
“Businesses come in and build a big giant park for $100 grand and then never come back and a few years later it gets grown over with weeds and grass and turns into just rocks and sticks and it’s no fun anymore,” he said. “That’s why I decided to just pick up all the ones that were already built and neglected and start maintaining them…I try to apply the ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ idea where you just stay on top of it.”
He spent about eight years helping the BMX scene in Cumberland as well as some time at Heavy Nettle Trails and then Cougar Smith Bike Park by Sproat Lake before being lured to the West Coast by Ucluelet’s skate bowl.
“I love riding the bowl here. The bowl here is one of the best ever and the skate park in Tofino is really good,” he said. “I just came out for a road trip with my friend to ride the bowl and saw this park with tumbleweeds, old decrepit jumps and a sign that said Ukee BMX Track, so I decided to send a proposal in to (Parks and Recreation director) Abby Fortune.”
He’s now been working under contract with the district for about six years to maintain and evolve the space.
“I add a little bit each year. Dirt jumps were always intended to be built, kind of, more long term, continual process of evolution,” he said. “If you keep them running and actually ride them with the kids, it helps to create the culture and pass on some of the knowledge so people can actually learn what it’s all about instead of having these things handed to them on a silver platter and not knowing what to do with them and then riding them into the ground.”
Fortune told the Westerly that King has been a solid asset for the district’s BMX growth.
“Dylan does a great job. He always goes above and beyond when he puts stuff together. He’s so passionate about this project and making things work for the bike park,” she said.
“He’s extremely talented and he’s got a very specific skillset that is working very well for the bike park.”
King said he’s focused his skills on BMX building because of his passion for the sport and his appreciation of its accessibility.
“We’ve got to build spots for the kids in town that don’t have $10,000 to spend on a mountain bike,” he said.
“Spots like this get kids outside, active, enjoying their life off their screens and their phones and their videogames…It’s taught me so many things. It’s kept me physically active and positive and happy, with something to live for and a reason to want to stay somewhat healthy and on the more straight and narrow.”
Morrison said getting youth outside and participating in activities that challenge them is key to the community’s development.
“This is a sport you can get in at an early level. It has gradient ability levels, so it’s kind of like a video game for them. Once you get into the bigger jumps, it’s a challenge and the smaller jumps are all accessible,” he said.
“Not everyone’s into the traditional team sports. BMX is something a person can do alone, practice alone, but also it naturally has a community around it and it helps build a community. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
He added that watching the park grow and evolve helps young riders understand and take ownership of the park.
“It builds work ethic and it builds community. There’s that old expression, we’re not raising kids we’re raising adults. So, you think about the kind of adults you want to have in a community, you think about the kind of people you want and you want people that are involved and engaged,” he said.
“We’ve all tried a sport and the first couple times you’re failing, kids need to know about failure, but they also need to see little improvements, and when you can see little improvements that will carry on for the rest of your life…This whole town is making little improvements all the time and if they see that they realize that they have a stake in it.”
He said the ANAF is looking into other fundraising possibilities, like movie nights that could eventually feature footage of local riders.
“Who knows, maybe someone will come up with a trick here and record it and it will end up becoming a Ukee thing,” he said. “It’s exciting times…We might have the next BMX prodigy right here.”
King noted BMX is now an Olympic sport and that the West Coast’s scene could grow quickly, adding the community celebrated its second annual SawTooth Jam BMX event in 2023.
“Just like the skate bowl here, it had growing pains when it first got put in because it’s really deep and mean and gnarly, but now look how good all the skaters are in town. People adapt to whatever they have and if you don’t have good facilities then you don’t have good riders basically,” he said. “Calm seas never made a good sailor, so you’ve got to have beginners stuff leading up to advanced stuff to have them constantly progressing and not getting bored and stagnant feeling where they just move onto other things.”
He’s hoping to have the pump track up and running by spring break and also has plans to pave the track and add a tool shed in the future.
He said a variety of supporters have helped the park come together including Mayco Noel of the Rent - It centre, the district’s parks and recreation team, Scott Reed and Amy Cameron of Ukee Timber and Brad Bonar at Athecon Projects, who built a new wall ride while his crew was stuck in town due to the highway closures at Cameron Lake.
Don’t miss out on reading the latest local, provincial and national news. Join our community and receive daily news alerts & breaking news, right to your inbox. www.westerlynews.ca/newsletters.