With hours left to go before time ran out to fulfill the matching fund requirement of a major state grant, island nonprofit RJ’s Kids collected enough contributions to proceed with the construction of an outdoor pump track at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC).
Designed by West Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks, the pump track will be the first of its kind in the state, serving skateboarders, BMX bike riders and rollerbladers, who will use their own momentum to cruise over the track’s turns and mounds without having to push or pedal.
Having raised the matching component of a $150,000 Youth Athletic Facilities grant — awarded to RJ’s Kids last May — construction could begin later this year on what organizers call Phase 2 of the BARC master plan, including additional skating infrastructure, an exercise station and native landscaping.
“I’m speechless,” said Judith Neary of RJ’s Kids.
She credited BARC volunteer steward Bryan Ripka for helping to spread the word and make connections with donors who supported the project.
“It wasn’t the usual suspects that donated,” said Neary. “That said a lot for me in terms of, ‘OK, well, we have this idea, and we think it’s good for the community, and there’s a core group of community members who want to use this [facility].’”
Just a week out from the deadline, RJ’s Kids needed roughly $45,000 to make the project a reality.
Neary said the majority of contributions were small, received from individuals or recreation enthusiasts donating their money or pledging their labor. Area businesses also gave to the campaign, including a $10,000 in-kind donation of labor and materials by islander Marty Burns, who owns a construction company, and, according to Neary, an $11,000 donation from the Elizabeth A. Lynn Foundation. Neary added that other private contributions were still being collected and tallied late last week. A GoFundMe page set up by Ripka last month to help close the shortfall was still trending at press time.
Neary and her husband launched RJ’s Kids following the death of their son in 2014, and Neary said it has been a labor of love for the both of them.
“We’re very grateful to live in this community,” she said.
Ripka, for his part, said that during a recent visit to the park, he saw how much it matters to those who frequent it, from a family with school-age children learning to ride the ramps, to adults playing disc golf and older folks walking their dogs.
“BARC is like the Ober Park of the south end, without your traditional playground equipment,” he said. “Action sports are now part of the mainstream, especially with the younger generations, and we just saw firsthand that our community wants to support facilities that incorporate these activities.”
Ripka said the next task before organizers will be to come up with a construction and building calendar for those who pledged their labor to join work parties and help with the construction. He noted that one challenge posed by the project is its scale, with the potential of two grants to manage simultaneously, both of which would see to the completion of BARC’s original master plan.
In March, Neary applied for a $250,000 Youth and Amateur Sports Grant from King County Parks to complete the ultimate vision of BARC. That design, also created by Grindline, would provide for an ADA-accessible walking path around the perimeter of the park, rest areas, more skating features, a parkour structure and a basic climbing wall.
BARC is a Vashon Park District property. Last December, VPD Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford said that Neary’s vision for BARC and the concept designs by Grindline are true to the vision of those who drafted the original master plan for the park.
“It’s all in the spirit of what the master plan intended,” she said at the time, adding that the district was encouraged by the park’s value to off-islanders who will bring business to Vashon. “This is going to be a big deal.”
Ripka said that despite the work ahead, there is little that could shake his confidence or determination to see the next steps through.
“I am ecstatic. It goes to show the value we saw in this project was seen by the community as well,” he said.
Marco Gaul, a fellow volunteer BARC steward and avid skateboarder, echoed his refrain in an email.
“I think it’s amazing we were able to raise the money for the matching grant in such a short amount of time,” he said. “It will be a lot of fun.”