NANAIMO — A little more than a year after losing a hero, Nanaimo's cycling community now has a world class bike park to cement his legacy.
Hundreds of people packed Beban Park on Wednesday to officially open the Stevie Smith Bike Park. After years of existing as little more than a concept, the project surged to reality over the last year. Sitting beside the existing BMX park, the new features include a dirt jump course and pump track.
Tianna Smith, Stevie's mother, said in her last conversation with her son he spoke of his dream of buying property and building dirt jumps so he could start teaching other kids. She said it was his way of offering something he never had access to as a child.
"We went to every skate park that was ever built on the island. I knew where every set of dirt jumps in the bush were because that's what we had to do. Now they can come here and there's everything. He would be so stoked.
"I wish I was doing it with him, not for him."
She said the community support behind the project was surreal and overwhelming. Smith said she hopes the bike park will connect other parents with their children, the way cycling did for her and Stevie.
"My big hope is the parents that bring their kids here stay and watch...I consider myself lucky because how many moms get to hang out with their teenage sons...That's what I'm hoping, maybe moms will come here because it's easier, everything is here, it's a little more comfortable."
Smith, a world champion downhill mountain biker from Cassidy, passed away in May 2016 at the age of 26 after a dirt bike accident.
Stevie Smith Legacy Foundation founder Michelle Corfield said over 85 donations of cash and in-kind work, as well as countless hours from volunteers, were critical to the project's success.
"A sense of overall pride for Nanaimo...It took all of us working together to make it happen and that's exactly how Steve's career came about. It took a community to get him to become a world champion right from the time he got his first bike," Corfield said.
She said while the financial figures haven't been completely tallied, the foundation has invested more than $100,000 into the bike park. Financial support locally also came from the City and Gyro Club of Nanaimo.
Professional riders from around the world were at the park Wednesday, flying off dirt jumps alongside close friends to honour Stevie with the ceremonial first run. Smith's sister, Kara, said it showed how loved and respected her brother was in the racing scene. She said the park will hopefully inspire another generation of Canadian Chainsaws — the nickname Stevie earned with his fierce riding style.
"As a kid growing up here, there wasn't a lot of places to ride. As he got farther into the scene it was him building his own tracks and trails. He talked about it frequently how it would be great for the community," Kara Smith said.
Twenty-five local children also received bikes and helmets at the event, thanks to donations from corporate partners.
When asked what her son would say about Wednesday's event, Tianna Smith gazed at the children riding the track and thought for a moment. "He was a man of very few words. Every time you asked how something was, he would say 'f*cking awesome.' He would be really impressed by this."
On Twitter: @domabassi
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