Stories & features

Remote B.C. community gets a skate park, thanks in part to BC Hydro barge

Tug boat pulling a BC Hydro barge to help bring equipment to a remote community in B.C.
A BC Hydro crew found room on a barge carrying BC Hydro equipment to Ahousaht, an island off Tofino, to carry cement trucks and other materials for a skate park project on the island.

Survivor of marine disaster helps with project  

The remote B.C. community of Ahousaht, on a small island off the coast of Tofino, wanted a skate park for its youth. And through the collective efforts of a Vancouver Island non-profit group, a Calgarian who survived a 2015 marine tragedy in the area, and BC Hydro, the kids of Ahousaht started skating at the park in December.

The project was kicked off by Get on Board, which uses board sports to develop social skills, self confidence and goal setting in youth. But a fundraising boost came from an unexpected place, and a product of the courage shown by Ahousaht Nation members when the Leviathan II whale watching boat flipped over on October 25, 2015.

Six tourists died that day, but Ahousaht fishermen helped rescue the 21 others on board, including Calgary's Dwayne Mazereeuw and his wife.

Extremely grateful for their rescue, Mazereeuw –  who works for a skate park company –  learned about the fundraising campaign to build a skateboard park in Ahousaht. He was eager to get involved with Get on Board, the Vancouver company Landyachtz, and others to help raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations while assisting with planning and construction of the park.

But transportation of construction material was a problem, as Ahousaht is limited to boat and float plane access only.  Existing barge space was scarce, so transporting the material was presenting itself as a large added expense.

How many cement trucks can you fit on a barge?

A BC Hydro crew working out of Ucluelet was using a barge to transport materials over to the Ahousaht area to complete some pole maintenance work. Could this be the solution?

Grant Shilling, a Cumberland resident and volunteer with Get on Board, let his neighbour Jonathan Mitchell, a BC Hydro vegetation coordinator, know about the project's challenge. Eager to help, Mitchell quickly worked through BC Hydro design technician Lynn Hooper to get Shilling connected with line crew member Randy Wertz.

Wertz was in. He suggested BC Hydro donate some of the extra space on the barge to ship the materials over to the site at no cost.

"Sometimes there's extra space on the barge, so it didn't cause any delays in our pole replacement work," explained Wertz.

Kids skateboarding at the skate park in Ahousaht
Kids of all ages enjoy the skate park.

'Another way to help out my neighbours'

Wertz coordinated his BC Hydro crew's work schedule to allow the Ahousaht First Nation to use barge space to ship over construction materials and cement trucks, saving significant costs for the project.  

"The skateboard park project is a great initiative and we are proud to work together with the community and the other organizations that are making it happen," Wertz said. "I live and work on the West Coast of the Island, and I looked at this as another way to help out my neighbours."

The skateboard park opened to the public in December 2016, and is being enjoyed by the young people in the community. The official announcement of the park opening will be on June 22, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Canada.