Outdoor spaces have been enjoying a surge in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and people in Moncton are about to be able to enjoy new additions at Centennial Park.
Back in the spring, people were able to weigh in on what they'd like to see changed in an area known as the "lower bowl", the flood-prone site of the former Centennial Beach.
It's an effort to make the area more usable for park visitors.
Dan Hicks, the director of parks for the City of Moncton, said they've been able to include just about everything people wanted in the new space.
Hicks says people missed not being able to skate around the island at Centennial Park, which hasn't been possible in the last few years because of ice hasn't been thick enough to be safe. Instead, a new 400 meter skating trail was added and is just about complete.
"So, doing a skating trail on the ground will help us make something better, safer and easier to control for recreational purposes." Hicks said.
"We also have lighting that we can program and have some animation with the space as well. It will be a very family–friendly, family–oriented spot . We'll have our skating trail here, we'll have our sliding trail over there and walking all around the pond, so a little bit of everything for everybody."
Hicks said any changes have to be able to withstand flooding, so buildings and heavy infrastructure were out.
He said surprisingly, basketball also stood out as a top request from the public.
"So, when we decided to build the basketball court, we moved it up where our Kaboom hockey rink is, so now it will serve as basketball in the summer and hockey in the winter and it'll do double duty and it'll do a better job in both cases." he said.
Hicks said the old lower bowl was a "hodge podge" of different things. The idea is to tie the space together and make it more of a natural habitat. That means reintegrating some plants, and using more natural drainage.
Other changes include a pond lookout with seating and shelter, along with replacement of the bridge to Colvert Trail.
Hicks said the project is coming in on time and on budget at $1.6 million. He said the city was able to get some federal COVID-19 relief funding, so in the end, taxpayers paid about 20 per cent, or $320,000 for the improvements.
Hicks said everything should be completed next month, but the real kick-off will come during skating season.
He says with COVID-19 uncertainty, having a facility like this is even more important.
"What we've seen throughout the pandemic is outdoor spaces are safe, they get people active, it's good for your mental health. It's good for your physical health and having a large outdoor park that people can get out and enjoy is really important to family and people's mental health." Hicks said.
"We're really happy to be able to have this facility here and provide it free of charge to the citizens of Moncton."