Island nonprofit raising funds for skate park project

“This is because of what the park can and will do for so many in this community.”

Island nonprofit RJ’s Kids needs roughly $45,000 of contributions or in-kind donations before May 1 to proceed with the construction of a pump track at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC).

The money will go toward fulfilling the matching fund requirement of a $150,000 state Youth Athletic Facilities grant awarded to the organization last May.

If RJ’s Kids does not have the funds in place in time, it will not receive the grant and will have to wait until 2020 to reapply.

A pump track is a riding course designed to propel bikers and, if paved, skateboarders and rollerbladers over a series of mounds without the need to pedal or push. With a design by West Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks, a concrete pump track at BARC would ripple out from the outdoor bowl that the company constructed there in 2014.

If completed, the BARC pump track, poured in place, would be the first of its kind in Washington state.

Judith Neary of RJ’s Kids said she first applied for the youth athletic facilities grant in order to realize the potential of an early master plan written for BARC more than 10 years ago by members of a community planning committee. The Vashon Park District, which manages the park and leases the property from the school district, signed on as a co-applicant.

Neary said some islanders who are unfamiliar with the park fail to take into account exactly how many people the original plan intended for the park to serve — it was supposed to be accessible to all ages and all abilities while providing a variety of recreational opportunities.

“There is a perception issue of what it is and what it could be,” said Neary, adding that the challenge of fundraising has meant overcoming wrong impressions.

To date, RJ’s Kids has raised $13,080 for the BARC pump track project — deemed phase 2 of the complete vision for the park. The majority of the funds raised so far consist of an in-kind donation of labor and materials amounting to $10,000, pledged by islander Marty Burns, who owns a construction company.

“It just seemed like a really important thing that everybody could really benefit from,” he said, adding that the project means a lot to Neary to see it completed. “I just wanted to help her out as much as I could and kick the whole donation thing off.”

On an online GoFundMe page, started by islander Bryan Ripka earlier this month, the campaign to match the funding for the youth athletic facilities grant had reached approximately $2,440 of its $60,000 goal at press time.

Ripka, who is a volunteer BARC steward, said he believes the campaign is realistic since it provides for in-kind donations of labor and materials, a contribution he said many supporters without deep pockets could feasibly make. A father of three young children, he said he and his family have always enjoyed skateboarding but that it can be intimidating for some to skate at BARC because there is not a space designated for them to use at their skill level.

Enter phase 3 of the BARC project: in March, Neary applied for a $250,000 Youth and Amateur Sports Grant from King County Parks to complete the ultimate vision of BARC. The phase 3 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.

RJ’s Kids was approved by the park district to submit for the grant; the park district is separately pursuing the same grant in order to fund a major renovation of the Ober Park Playground. Board commissioners have discussed concepts for a new, ADA-accessible playground there at several public meetings; the current structures are nearly 20 years old and have suffered deterioration in the last year.

The youth and amateur sports grant requires a 15% contingency of $34,622, and notice of the award will be received next month.

“This would be a super unique project for Vashon, it would be for all ages, skill levels and free to use,” said Ripka of the BARC project.

Going forward, fees for use of the skate park will only apply to programming and camp offerings, according to Recreation Manager Eric Wyatt, after the district received public comment against imposing structured user fees for access to the facility.

Neary said that if proponents of the pump track project at BARC fail to raise the matching funds needed before the end of the month, they will continue their efforts to get the support they need independently until the park is built.

“This is because of what the park can and will do for so many in this community.”

To support the BARC pump track project, call 206-661-5902, email, visit the GoFundMe page online, or stop by US Bank with a check for RJ’s Kids.