Complete with a ribbon-cutting, speeches from organizers and local dignitaries, food trucks and of course dozens of youth showing off their moves on skateboards, scooters, and bikes, the St. Paul BMX & Skatepark Initiative held their grand opening of the new skatepark on Saturday.
The event was the first major event to take place in St. Paul since March and a roaring success.
Planning and fundraising for the park has been underway since 2014. It features both a bowl and street setting to make it suitable for beginner to advanced skill level users, and according to organizer Daniel Reid, has been in use every day since it opened to the public on July 19.
“That’s a testament to how much this community needed it and the hard work and effort that went into getting it done,” said Reid.
Reid’s motivation to build the skatepark comes from a very personal place, having lost his brother Mikey to suicide in 2013.
Reid named his shop ‘Bear’s BMX and Board Shop’ in memory of his brother and the interest he had in BMX before he died.
“He [Michael] was a character and we miss him,” said town councillor Ron Boisvert. “I knew it was going to be busy but it’s gone far beyond what we expected. It’s great to see everybody come out and get some physical activity and the town was proud to be part of this.”
The Town of St. Paul gave $30,000 in cash as well as the land the skatepark sits on, valued at $100,000.
“Love honours. The love within the Reid family started this project. The support from individuals, businesses, the Town and County of St. Paul speaks clearly to what this community is all about,” said County of St. Paul Deputy Reeve Maxine Fodness.
“On behalf of the County of St. Paul I’d like to congratulate you on the grand opening of this skatepark and the vision and hard work it took to provide a space for young people to stay active and healthy. The love for and memory of Michael will always be with us.”
The County of St. Paul contributed $30,000 in cash as well as $60,000 in the form of earthworks for the construction of the park.
The park was built by Langley, BC-based New Line Skateparks Inc. Community Outreach Specialist for New Line Everett Tetz was on hand to speak at the opening, and to give a skateboarding demonstration.
“A few [skateparks] stand out as really important projects. And this is one of them because of the story and because of all the hard work that went in to it,” said Tetz.
“What Dan did was literally take tragedy and heartbreak and turn it into something positive. Skateparks are proven through numerous studies to improve mental health, increase physical fitness, and improve communities. So this community just got better because of this space,” said Tetz, noting it is not just for the current generation but also an investment in the generations to come.
“Enjoy it as much as we enjoyed building it.”
MLA Dave Hanson spoke briefly to remind everyone to wear their helmets and commend the community on the work it took to make the park happen. The province of Alberta contributed $360,000 in the form of a CFEP grant.
Cornerstone Co-op was on hand for the opening with Cooper and the Community Connections van. General Manager Graham Getz encouraged other community groups to apply for funding through the Co-op Community Spaces Program which gave $125,000 to the skatepark.
“It’s how we continue to show our commitment to our communities and truly invest where we live, work, and play,” said Getz.
- Other major contributions include $50,000 from Alberta Blue Cross
- $17,000 from the St. Paul and District Lions Club
- $13,000 from the St. Paul Elks Lodge
- $7,500 from Canadian Natural Resources Limited
- $2,000 each from Canadian Tire, Beeline Drilling, and Performance Motor Sports
- $5,000 from Northern Source Rentals in the form of equipment for the construction
- $5,000 from Robertson Group in the form of concrete for the park
- $5,000 of advertising from the local radio station 97.7 which is now owned by Stingray
- $16,000 from barbecues and other fundraising events.
The number of donors involved in the skatepark is one of the things Reid says makes it really special.
“This park is the opposite of all other parks. Usually, it’s funded by the municipality the most. This park was funded by grants and grassroots donations. Eighty per cent was that and 20 per cent was municipality influx,” said Reid.
The skatepark initiative also received an interest-free loan in the amount of $145,000 from the Town of St. Paul.
The loan allowed them to finish construction of the park on time. The group is continuing to take donations and fundraise in order to repay it.