If you need proof that building a new skate park in Virgil was a great decision, look no further than the ribbon-cutting ceremony held there Friday afternoon.
As politicians, town staff and local business owners celebrated the official opening of the facility, a group of more than 30 enthusiasts of all ages had a difficult time stepping off their boards, scooters and BMX bikes to let the officials do their thing, a testament to them finally being able to practise their sport on a top-notch track in town.
With the group of mostly young school-aged children quietly rolling along around and behind him, acting director of operations Kevin Turcotte stepped to the microphone. He gave thanks to town council, the Virgil Business Association, town staff, the construction team from Propour Concrete Services and the designers from Canadian Ramp Company for their contributions to the 5,400 square foot facility.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero praised the skate park as just the latest addition to a bustling site. “Take a look around at this park,” she urged.
“Not just what we’re here to celebrate today. If it was not for the generous contributions of the Virgil Business Association and the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake, we would not have this wonderful multi-generational park for many people to use.”
Indeed, the skate park joins the splash pad, arenas, walking path, soccer fields, softball diamonds and basketball and pickleball courts to make for a recreational facility that offers all residents the opportunity to stay active.
MPP Wayne Gates spoke of the importance of the community offering facilities such as the skate park. “If you want to attract young people to Niagara-on-the-Lake,” he said, “we’ve already attracted seniors, we know that, but we need to attract young families. They will look at the skate park and say ‘Niagara-on-the-Lake gets it, they understand the importance of having a place for my kids to go and get some exercise.’”
Niagara Falls MP Tony Baldinelli was in town to recognize the 60th anniversary of Van Noort Florists. When owner Sharon Van Noort mentioned she needed to get over to the park to attend the opening, Baldinelli changed his plans and followed her.
Richard Wall of the Virgil Business Association was invited up to present a ceremonial $150,000 cheque to represent the group’s contribution toward the $450,000 cost of the project.
Wall beamed as he looked around at the kids skating and riding, and reflected on more than a decade of planning that went into the skate park becoming a reality. He also made sure to mention former town councillor Dennis Dick, who passed away recently, as one of the visionaries involved since the start. Wall dedicated the grand opening in memory of Dick.
“This entire park here is a vision that the VBA has always had,” Wall said. “The other vision of the VBA has always been family, and all ages. I think we’ve really created an all-ages sports park that’s second to none in the area.”
Though this year’s Virgil Stampede was cancelled due to the novel coronavirus, Wall attributed the previous three years of the event, and the hundreds of volunteers involved in making it a success, as the reason the skate park finally came to fruition.
Wall was quick to state that there’s more to come in the evolution of the sports park in Virgil. “There’s talk of an addition of a pump track (for BMX riders) around this facility, that will be contemplated. We’re also looking at potentially enhancing the pavilion in the future, and beyond that, we are usually looking for projects. We probably won’t have a definitive decision until some time next year about what the major project will be.”
The skate park itself is impressive. As one approaches from the parking lot, the height of the bowl is the first thing that might elicit surprise. “I didn’t realize the magnitude of the height, I was expecting it to be more ground level, and I didn’t think it would be this big. I’m proud of it even more so than I anticipated,” said Wall.
About the group of kids using the park, he said, “it’s fabulous, seeing them here today. And I was here last Saturday and the park was full. The biggest pride I got was seeing all the age groups. We weren’t intending this to be a teenage-only facility. We wanted it to appeal to a kindergarten right through to the university, adult demographic, and I think we succeeded. Hopefully one day my grandkids will get a chance to use it.”
And as the ceremony wound up, a group of university-aged adults pulled up in a car, fetched their decks from the hatch and headed toward the park to join the boys and girls and at least one 31-year-old, Chris Doucette of Niagara Falls, to test their skills on the ramps and rails.
Wall and the other dignitaries who spoke, all of whom admitted they were outside of the demographic for whom the park was built, wisely made the decision to avoid stepping on a board, scooter or bike to test out the new track. Their ankles were likely thankful for their wise decision.