Carli Berry/Capital News BMX biker Ajay Weintz (left) and skateboarder Johnny Tassopoulos are excited to see the completion of the new skate plaza in Swalwell Park.

Lake Country skate park dreams turn to reality

After four and a half years of planning, Swalwell Park is getting a new addition

It’s been an exciting few weeks for BMX rider Ajay Weintz, who has been on site every day during the construction of Lake Country’s new skate plaza.

The 18-year-old has been pushing the District of Lake Country for a new skatepark since he was in high school.

“Like it says in my yearbook quote, ‘with time and dedication, anything can happen if you set your mind to it,’” he said.

His five-year-long dream is finally coming to fruition with Swalwell Park’s latest skatepark additions, set for completion before May long weekend. Weintz is one of about 15 George Elliot Secondary students who advocated for the new park.

“I’ve grown up in Winfield my whole life and we noticed the park was starting to get worn down; it was starting to get bumps, cracks, everything like that,” he said. “It needed all the paint stripped off of it, all the graffiti, as it gets to a point where it starts to get slippery.”

Yet every day in his childhood was spent at the skatepark with his mom and dad, after learning to ride a bike at two and a BMX at four.

Initially, the students wanted to clear off the paint at the old park, but Weintz took the idea a step further.

“We started getting ideas and I got people to send me designs and I brought them to the district and I think they started to get annoyed with me and clued in we needed a new park.”

The old park has two large bowls, which are intimidating to younger riders, but the new plaza will include a new stair set, rails, an A-frame, quarter pipes, a free-floating quarter pipe, boxes and hubbas for every age and ability, said Weintz.

Skateboarder Johnny Tassopoulos, 20, got on board with the project about two years ago.

Without a place to improve his skills, Tassopoulos and his friends practised in the streets with improvised tricks using stairs and whatever else they could find.

“When I was younger, I’d have to bus to Kelowna all the time to use that skatepark. The older park is outdated, but this one has different features, like sets and rails,” he said. “Most places where we’d go and skate street sets around the city we’d just get kicked out and hassled by cops.”

Parks superintendent Shaun Lesowski said he approached the youths and asked them why they weren’t using the skatepark.

“They said skating has evolved and changed and they were looking for different things,” said Lesowski.

Meetings between the students and district began about four and half years ago to improve the park, which was originally set to be completed last year but was delayed due to fires and floods, said Lesowski.

“It’s been an absolutely excellent experience working with the kids. They’ve been so respectful and they’ve taken a lot of pride with it,” he said. “When it was first engaging with the kids, they were kids and now they’re adults. Adults still participate in the sport.”

The young adults are also excited to pass down their skills to the younger generations.

“There are two guys that taught me how to BMX and now I’m passing it down to kids that look up to me and it’s cool to watch the improvement,” said Weintz. “(With the new park) they’ll do better tricks than me one day.”

The project cost the district $250,000, which was allocated in last year’s budget.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


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