Sheldon Steckman makes a jump off a bike ramp onto the Camp of Champions airbag at Panorama Recreation Centre.

Sheldon Steckman makes a jump off a bike ramp onto the Camp of Champions airbag at Panorama Recreation Centre.

Next generation takes the helm at North Saanich Freeride Park

Bike park meeting ushers in younger leadership, welcomes new members

Mark Matthews is happy he no longer breaks the law to do what he loves.

Once forced to build illegal ramps in the forest so he and his friends would have a place to bike, he is grateful for the North Saanich Freeride Park he helped build, with countless hours of planning, fundraising, building and now riding.

However, it isn’t quite where he wants it to be – and the 23-year-old Camosun College student hopes the Friends of North Saanich Freeride Park can raise $50,000 to maintain and improve the park he loves.

“I would like to see it have more variety than it does today,” he said. “For advanced riders it isn’t as appealing, it would be good to get them out there, they are the ones with sponsors that could help get this place going.”

He hopes to offer more challenging runs, with larger and taller jumps and landings and the addition of berms – steep banked turns – for advanced users. Eventually the dream is to have contest-sized jumps which could open the possibility of hosting bigger riding events on the Island which could inject money into the local economy and the park.

In order to reach his goal, he hopes to grow membership of the society from the hundreds into the thousands to create a larger community and increase awareness of the sport and the park that draws interest from across Greater Victoria.

“When I am by myself, I could go to the bike park and you always have someone to ride with. It creates a scene that otherwise wouldn’t exist,” he said. “It is a safe place for kids to progress and get better.”

High clay content used at the track requires heavy equipment to place new clay when heavy usage packs it down – and  approximately $10,000 is required just to keep the facility open. To improve the park to attract even more riders, especially advanced riders, the North Saanich Bike Park Society needs an additional $40,000.

Newly minted as the vice president of the FNSFP, Matthews’ new role is a passing of a torch of sorts, taking over the reigns from his father and outgoing vice president George. The one-hectare park exists today in part because George took the initiative to help create the park, in part for Mark – and the elder Matthews hopes more parents do the same.

“For sustainability, you need a lot more parents involved who can help with the building of the jumps, creation of more pieces and ongoing maintenance,” he said. “You [can] get your kids on bikes instead of sitting in front of a TV inside.”

While he is passing some duties to his son – he is still passionate about the park that changed his son’s life and hopes to see the sport continue to grow.

“The best part is seeing a whole bunch of young kids there,” George said. “The young kids shows me the sport is growing, it is continuing.”