by Anne Miller –
Stephen is 40, going on 14! While he’s been an avid mountain biker for a good part of his life, he’s now learning to “dirt jump.” He says the experience is both terrifying and liberating. Stephen bikes at the North Saanich Freeride Park and is its president. When I met him, I realized I’d come across one of the most optimistic and genuine people I’d ever met.
Stephen talks about the Freeride Park with enthusiasm and hope. The park got its start when North Saanich council listened to Mark Matthews, an enthusiastic and determined young teen with a dream. Mark’s compelling arguments convinced the municipality to donate a piece of land for a bike park in 2002. Today, it is one of the busiest parks in North Saanich and is completely free for anyone to use. It has broad appeal to all ages and uses. Like a ski hill, jumps are rated from “green” up to “double black,” getting more challenging over time.
Stephen values what the park provides its youth, not only towards their health or as an alternative to the PlayStation. He’s a big believer in offering them opportunities for risky play – having a safe place to allow them to fail. That’s what creates resilient people, he says, which is critical in business and in life. “We achieve great things if we’re willing to try things and to fail but if we always stick to the safe side, the big discoveries aren’t going to happen.”
It’s that willingness to take calculated risks that fosters entrepreneurs, and Stephen should know. He runs two businesses with his wife, Christine. Through Bread and Butter Creative, they offer custom app development for small business. They also run another, completely different, business. Their acre of property supports a market garden they call Little Maple Farm. When selling their produce at the North Saanich Farmer’s Market, they welcome the mentorship offered by fellow farmers. There is no competition, just everyone wanting to help out. Stephen notes he’s pleased to live in an area with soil and climate conducive to the production of good local food. “Food security is an important issue.” He fears, however, that as farmers retire, there will be a void as young growers face the difficult, sometimes impossible, challenge of land costs. No doubt, Stephen’s passion and innovative thinking will kick in to address this issue at some point.
Stephen has great hopes for the park; one includes funding. Currently, the park is funded 100% by community donations. Stephen is aiming for a more sustainable funding structure by looking at grants, annual crowd funding and, hopefully, displaying sponsorships in the park.
Secondly, Stephen will focus on expanding the volunteer base. He’s a big believer in having a large group of people, each contributing a small amount, thus, creating a resilient group who’ll keep the park going for decades. His vision of volunteers includes kids who use the park, as it helps build their confidence and their skillsets.
Stephen feels fortunate to be involved in the Freeride Park, in his work and in the place he lives. “Canada gives us a quality of life that’s so incredible with phenomenal opportunities.” His hope is to organize the park for long term success. Being such a positive person, he’ll succeed and the community will benefit greatly.
For more information, email Stephen Parslow via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.northsaanichfreeride.com.
photo by Nunn Other Photography