It’s not life or death, it’s BMX. Q+A with Pemberton BMX’ Jessica Hare Turner

One of Pemberton’s latest community initiatives sprouted out of an overgrown track and a surprise birthday gift, but it was this photo posted on the facebook page of Pemberton BMX that made me realise that something really amazing was in the works.

Volunteer hours and a passion for dirt, community and bike-riding fuelled the Pemberton BMX Club’s debut season – weekly track maintenance nights, a sold-out BMX camp for 18 kids, and three fun races that ended September 12 with close to 50 competitors. (Check out Dave Steers awesome photo gallery for all the action.)

Jessica Turner is one of whirlwinds behind Pemberton BMX – she’s also a mom and a former BMX racer. We sent her a huge Q+A to get the dirt on the funnest dirt-pile in Pemberton. Watch for their AGM in October, to support and inform what Pemberton BMX looks like in 2013.

Tell us about the first season of the Pemberton BMX Club. How did it go?

The interest & support in our first season is beyond what we imagined.  We planned three fun races for the season, with our kick off on Canada Day and the season wrap up on Sept 12, where we had about 50 people and raised just over $300… it was an amazing finish to our first year.

Each race we’d get about 30 kids, ages ranging from 2 to about 12.  We usually get a few heats of parents racing as well.  Super cool be a part of an event where the whole family partakes.  We also ran a sold out BMX camp for 18 kids.  Then there is our Wednesday night track nights from 7-9, where we do our weekly maintenance, watering, raking, smoothing out, weeding and such.

Who is the Pemberton BMX Club?

Our board includes my hubby Graham Turner, myself, Lara Wall, Dan Wall, Ernesto Cruz, and Turner Montgomery.  Of course we couldn’t do it without our vollies.

Any shout-outs you want to give for the first season? Sponsors, supporters, people it couldn’t have happened without?

There are a lot, I hope I don’t forget anyone.  My hubby, Graham is a huge driving force behind PBMX.  Lara Wall, our treasurer, has a knack for detail and keeps all our paperwork in order, couldn’t do it without her.  Her hubby Dan Wall designed our logo and is always willing to help out.  Ernesto Cruz, Jeff Ihaksi, Sean Holmes, Nelson Jenson, Steve Petrie & Graeme Harris were key in getting the track rebuilt and help out whenever they can.  Turner Montgomery built our trophies and is a key volunteer.

Brett Milner, Mark Beaton, Gary Martin are usual suspects at the track… I feel like I’m missing a name or two here.  Have to thank my sister Tara Hare as well, for keeping an eye on our little boy during events and cooking a hotdog or two. Coast Mountain Excavations for the machinery, Dave Traynor @ Flow Irrigation for the watering set up, Rona for the shovels & rakes, Pemberton Valley Supermarket for hooking us up with food, ToadHall for our stickers and Blackcomb sign shop for our signs.  Prize donations from Mile One, Mount Currie Coffee Co., Troy Lee Designs, Vans, SkullCandy, Sram; The Village of Pemberton for being so supportive along with Squamish BMX, Langley BMX & North Vancouver BMX.

What did running Pemberton BMX involve?

5-10 hours a week, depending on whether or not we have an upcoming event, encompassing everything from event planning to wish list building, planning future endeavours, communicating with other tracks, marketing, fundraising, maintenance nights.  Now we are shifting our focus towards planning for next year.

What motivated this?

It all started with a Floval Flyer BMX Bike.  Graham came a across this BMX bike and for some reason couldn’t pass it by – it ended up being my birthday present last October.

I used to race BMX as a kid but didn’t think it was something that was going to be a part of my life again.  I was kinda like, What am I going to do with a BMX? We have a garage full of bikes.  We started joking around about bringing the track back to life so I’d have somewhere to ride my new bike.  Steve Petrie was over at our house this winter. He was involved in the original track build, and we all got talking about the track. And it just evolved from there.

Why BMX? Isn’t it a kind of 80s thing?

BMX was definitely on a high in the 80’s and fizzled out of popularity but it’s always been simmering beneath the surface.

The simple answer is that there was a track here in Pemby that was over grown and under utilized, so why not.

BMX is making a comeback, now a sanctioned Olympic event as of 4 years ago, the sport is seeing continual growth.  I think events like the X-Games have also helped push the sport forward (X-Games is freestyle focused, but BMX none the less).

The hugest demographic is kids from 2-12ish, which this town has no shortage of, and it’s a sport that helps kids build a well rounded athletic skill set.  We are starting to get to know people from other tracks, it’s a really family focused, they are super dedicated and travel far and wide to race.  The potential it has to bring people here for events has the potential to be a very positive spin off for local business.

What has been the biggest success of the season?

The amount of interest and community participation.  When Steve & I started chatting about the track with Caroline Lamont at the VOP we knew the track would get used but we weren’t sure how much interest there would be in organized events and a proper sanctioned club.  The amount of people that are keen on participating and seeing this track grow has been so great.

On average, how many volunteers would you get out for track maintenance night?

We usually get about 5-10 people and a few kids that end up covered in dirt by the end of the night.

Who are they?  What  do you think motivates them to volunteer?

Most of the volunteers have kids that are into BMX.  There are also a surprising number of people in this town that used to race BMX. Plus there’s a few that are just stoked about what we are up to and like being a part of it.

I think it’s a unique volunteer opportunity, it’s a chance to do something for the community, be outside, meet new people, no commitment required, learn something new and I have to say…

there’s something satisfying and somewhat therapeutic about moving dirt around and making it look good.

Why do you think it’s important for kids who love to ride to see and be part of the volunteer maintenance nights?

It’s cool for the kids to see their parents and community put effort into something they enjoy and be a part of it. The kids cruise around the track, interact with people that they might not otherwise meet, they also learn the how to wield a rake and shovel..  Most importantly, they are able just be kids…

Nothing like a 3 year old, hose in hand, covered in dirt, it really is a beautiful thing.

What’s your vision for Pemberton BMX?

I see a well utilized, well built track that provides the opportunity for riders to learn & develop in a fun environment.  It’s a place where people can gather to ride just for fun or to develop into professional athletes.

It would be a pretty cool thing to see Pemberton BMX put on races that draw people from Canada & the US to our little community.

Sometimes, becoming a society can take the momentum out off grassroots community groups. All the energy that went into running events and track nights is soaked up with meetings and minutes. Do you have any concerns about that? Do you feel confident the support for Pemberton BMX is deep enough to sustain this?

We’ve been operating as though we are a society already – keeping meeting minutes, financials and all that good stuff.  The momentum has evolved organically and we have been keeping ourselves in check with what we are prepared to take on.  Amongst our board we have open communication and everyone has a different skill set to bring to the table so things flow really well right now.

If we are meant to grow into a huge organization, I have faith that the right people, with the right skills will present themselves.  There is definitely enough support to what we are doing right now, along with a track upgrade and a few more events.  I foresee Pemberton BMX becoming a sanctioned track, which means riders will need to become members, we need to hold a minimum amount of races per season… everything gets stepped up a few notches.  Whether or not we are ready for sanctioning next season remains to be seen but I do see there being enough support within the town and the sport itself for it to happen at some point in the near future.

How can people show their support? Follow the facebook page?

Following the Facebook page is great because it’s a way to see what we are up to.  Showing up on maintenance night is great – now we are heading into fall these are only going to last as long as the daylight does.  We’ve started showing up closer to 6pm now that it’s getting dark around 8pm.

We are going to hold an AGM sometime in October. Showing up for the AGM will help provide us with a better understanding of what the community would like to see happen moving forward.

Last but not least, donations are always welcome.

Jessica, you ran for Council in 2011. You’re obviously someone who cares a lot about community.  Does that come out of having kids? Or does it come from somewhere else?

It was actually a political science class in college that got me interested in politics.  I especially find  the sociological aspect of politics fascinating, I also like the fact that at a municipal level you can make decisions that have direct impact on your community. Lastly my demographic is hugely under-represented.

Plus, Pemberton is great little community with one diverse population and a whole lot of potential.

In your opinion, what does a strong sense of community require?

Knowing that there is a role to play and you are of value to your community.  It’s about doing and participating, instead of sitting back and complaining or expecting someone else to get things done. I think you can find your way of contributing in unexpected ways. It’s not always about being involved in community groups. Supporting your neighbours and friends has a huge impact.

What’s so fun about riding bikes?

My first bike was a Norco BMX. My dad got me racing in Whistler when I was about 5. Since then I’ve always had a bike or 3.

I used to do a lot of downhill but after having Austin my love for it has faded however BMX is now making it’s way back into my life in a huge way, I can foresee getting back into racing.

FYI Ladies, there is a women’s class and would love to see a few more of you out doing laps!  No experience necessary & there’s usually an extra BMX kicking around to ride.

Biking elicits a feeling of freedom. You can be forever young on a bike.

Why Pemberton?

The view of Mount Currie, the wonderful friends, the farms, the trails, fresh air.

What have you discovered about Pemberton since kicking PembyBMX into gear?

There are a lot of people into BMX.

Do you think having such a small Village footprint, with a high concentration of condos, makes Pemberton’s public and recreation space even more important?

Public / Rec space is important regardless of size of community.  Having somewhere to gather & play builds a stronger community. Bonds are formed that might not otherwise be and active lifestyles make for happier people, leading to happier communities.

Recreation is a big topic here right now – we want more recreation services but we have no budget.  That’s a tough problem to solve. It takes more than the people at the council table to bring forward solutions.

It’s been neat watching the changes that have happened in a few short years here, the skate park, now the BMX track, even downtown has huge potential.  If we keep moving forward and participating in a conscious way, I foresee some great things for this town over the next 10 years.

Where’s your favourite place to hang out or play in Pemberton?

Currently I’m a fan of running the trails and hanging/riding the track.

What frustrations have you had? How do you manage or approach the setbacks or challenges?

The experience has been really positive, there was a wee bit of BMX politics that came into play but you just shrug it off and move on.

It’s not life or death. It’s BMX and it’s all about having fun and seeing kids, big & small, stoked about riding their bikes.

5 Responses to “It’s not life or death, it’s BMX. Q+A with Pemberton BMX’ Jessica Hare Turner”
  1. Cathy says:

    Jess, Graham and all of your fellow BMXers, what a great story of what a few people can do for so many in a community. This can happen anywhere! Who knows what the future holds for you and your community! This is the start of something really BIG!! Continued sucsess for all who volunteer their time. Photos say it all. Great to watch all of this blossom!!
    Thanks for sharing!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Turner, in this inspiring Q+A at Choose Pemberton, also recognised a host of amazing volunteers who supported the Board this summer, including: Jeff […]

  2. […] might not go as wide, but they are felt as profoundly, sometimes more so, in our little pond. Jess and Graham and their crew of volunteers building a BMX track, or Anna and Niki galvanising farmers and artists […]

  3. […] also jives with what Pemberton resident Mo Douglas has created with the Hello Pledge, and what Pemberton BMX founder Jessica Turner has said is at the heart of community: A strong sense of community comes from knowing that there is […]

  4. […] checking in this September with Pemberton BMX’s Jessica Hare, the group have been even busier than they were this summer. They’ve presented a bold vision […]

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