1418 Lake Ontario Road, Bonavista, Calgary.
A small, outdoor sporting complex complete with tennis courts, a basketball court, a baseball diamond, and a healthy amount of greenery. Along the west side of the park sits the Bonavista Downs community hall; hidden in its shadow the Bonavista Downs do-it-yourself skatepark.
Through the assorted grass and courts, there is a sign on a fence — use of safety equipment highly recommended, no drugs or alcohol, USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Scribbled in the margins, bye Marcel.
It’s nearly 1 p.m. on a Thursday in June, and a kid, maybe ten years old, is helmet-clad and pumping his way up and down the park’s largest of three half-pipes. He says he’s homeschooled and on his lunch break. He lives within walking (or skating) distance and says that skateboarding is his favourite thing to do.
Shortly after, he leaves, and is replaced by Will Henley, who drove.
Henley is a business student at Mount Royal University, and he says he likes to come to the Bonavista D.I.Y. when it’s quiet.
Henley starts to skate and showing off his repertoire of tricks for the camera, a symbiotic relationship as old as film and sports.
Henley says he skates this park often, and that he knows the local crew well enough. He mentions Marcel, and how he was the driving factor in developing the park.
Marcel had started a GoFundMe for the park in 2019 and he started to seem like he was a guy worth talking to.
Jeremiah Morrison agreed.
Morrison currently serves as the vice-president for the Bonavista Downs Community Association (BDCA) and was president during Marcel’s reign as “The Guy”.
“[Marcel] was my contact,” said Morrison, “He would tell me what the skateboarders were after, or issues they were having, or whatever.”
“Whenever we would do a build day, he would ensure that all of his friends and the other skateboarders came out.”
Everything in the skatepark stems from volunteer efforts. The BDCA hosts “build days” where members of the community come together to help modify the park and its features. Henley joked that most of the features were built by kid’s dads.
While there is certainly some truth to that, the Bonavista Downs skatepark has also received much support from external organizations.
According to Morrison, they have received support from The Inside, a faith-based skateboarding organization; New Line Skateparks, who donated the parks half-pipes; and Knight Custom Homes whose staff often volunteers on build days.
As well, the Bonavista Downs D.I.Y. received funds through the Activate YYC grant program — an organization that describes itself as a “tactical urbanism microgrant initiative” and is run by the Federation of Calgary Communities.
This year the park is also receiving donations from the Calgary Parking Authority, which may be a bit of solace for skateboarders with a certain talent for racking up parking tickets.
It may also warm the heart of Marcel, who is no longer in Calgary to witness the outpouring of support.
Marcel Jimenez now lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Whilst in Calgary, Jimenez worked as a camp counsellor for Riders on Board, coordinated efforts to build up the Bonavista Downs D.I.Y., and organized the aforementioned GoFundMe.
“We ended up raising about 250 bucks and I put that into building the mani pad and a little down-ledge that used to be there, but it ended up getting fully destroyed,” said Jimenez.
“The people that come in are from all sports, like scooters or skateboards or BMX, a lot of this stuff isn’t built for that wide variety.”
Although many credit Jimenez for his work with the park, it preceded him by quite a while. According to Jimenez himself, the D.I.Y. park has existed in different iterations for at least 14 years.
When Jimenez first found the park with the help of local skater and childhood friend Jackson Sluiter, it was an assortment of small, odd features — including a teeter-totter-esque rail that Jimenez named “the craziest thing ever”.
“We would skate from our houses [up the hill], and then bomb the hill every day,” said Jimenez, “and then there’s the church on the right side of the road when you come down that has a stair over a four-block, and a little mani pad outside the back and then there’s also a little gap [jump].”
“You go up all of the aspects of skating on the way to this park every day. Everybody would be like, oh, why don’t you come skate Swood [a.k.a. Southwood skate park] or [Shaw] Millennium or whatever?”
“I’m like, I gotta get a bus, go an hour downtown [or] I can just skate half a block through all these spots, and then go skate at a park that never has anybody [there] and I can feel at home.”
Jimenez started off the video call gushing about the D.I.Y. scene in Toronto, calling the parks there “just like what [he] wanted the (Bonavista) Downs to be” except that he didn’t have to put in the work into developing them.
By the time the call is wrapping up, Jimenez was nostalgic.
“Thank you so much for reaching out, that really made my day— for sharing and bringing…,” here, Jimenez pauses, “[For] bringing me back to what made me the person I am today.”