Young people in the South River area officially have their skateboard park.
The South River Skateboard Park officially opened with a ceremony July 1 involving key people who helped make the park a reality.
Afterward, Zach Wilson of Machar gave onlookers a demonstration of his skills as a BMX cyclist on the various park banks.
Wilson is regarded as the catalyst who helped bring about the park.
However, the 28-year-old said it wasn't just one person who made it happen, but rather a large group of people, businesses and organizations.
There have been many failed attempts over the decades to create a skateboard park in South River.
For Wilson personally, one effort began about 12 years ago.
“There were a few of us who were 15 and 16 at the time and we would get kicked out of a local gas station for riding our bikes and skateboards there,” Wilson told The Nugget while at the event.
“We figured why not try and get a skateboard park going. We got 250 signatures on a petition and $500, but it wasn't enough to make a difference.”
No attempt would actually succeed until 2020 when Deputy Mayor Doug Sewell became chair of the local Lions Club special committee, which had the job of creating a list of possible projects for 2020.
Sewell told the crowd his dad had a dream in the 1970s of creating a skateboard park.
When Wilson entered the picture to share his vision of what a skateboard park should and could look like for the area, Sewell said the special committee's choice of which project to pursue was unanimous.
Wilson said South River was too small to accommodate a sophisticated skateboard park with features like stairwells, handrails and bowls, because a facility like that would easily start at a quarter of a million dollars.
Wilson said that was well beyond the means of what the village could afford.
What was agreed upon was a fundraising target of $50,000, which would be enough to lay down the concrete pad and buy three skateboard banks.
Thanks to the target being surpassed, the committee was able to replace one of the features with a 12-by-15 foot half pyramid with a flat rail.
Both Sewell and Mayor Jim Coleman thanked numerous people and businesses at the grand opening, with Coleman adding it was Wilson's detailed plan of the facility that helped get the idea off the ground.
For Wilson, it's “a dream come true.”
“It's almost surreal,” he said. “It feels like a dream to actually see kids using and riding on something I've been wishing for for many years.”
Wilson says the park will get plenty of use from cyclists, as well as kids on scooters and skateboards, including his son who is a skateboarder.
He says the skateboard park can be used by young people just learning to ride or for more seasoned people like himself.
Wilson said he is grateful for the huge contribution from the Lions, whose members were responsible for the concrete pad.
In addition to businesses and people in South River, Wilson says the Township of Machar also helped, while the Village of Sundridge contributed $1,000.
Wilson says even young people chipped in, dropping money into donation jars spread out at local businesses.
“It's nice to finally see this,” Wilson said.
“Now young people will have something to ride on for years to come.”
The Canadian Ramp Co. provided and installed the skateboard park equipment. There also is signage displaying the names of financial contributors and indicating that the Lions were a major force behind the project.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget