Hart Skateboard Park Officially Open
Prince George, B.C. – There may be some who say its “just” a skateboard park, but they would be mistaken.The facility which was officially opened before a phenomenally-large crowd at Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick Bravery Park on Saturday is so much more than that.
To the Hart Community Association and the Nechako Rotary Club it is the satisfaction of seeing a decade worth of work, planning, fundraising, cajoling and just plain refusing to take no for an answer finally come to fruition. For the Fitzpatrick family it is an appreciation that the memory of their son who was lost at war is indelibly etched upon the park in which he played as a kid and that the theme of freedom has been incorporated in that park, as they had wished.
To the taxpayers and residents of the Hart the park gives the satisfaction that the kids of the collective neighbourhood now have a top-notch facility that they can use, right there in their neighbourhood.Mayor Hall and council have the knowledge that they finally managed to complete a project which the mayor himself said should have been completed “a long time ago.”
The business and private individual donors who stepped up to the plate with financial contributions can wake up each morning with the pride of knowing they’ve helped to make their community a better place.
And the kids and young people who are now using and will use the facility in the future, the park means a kind of freedom. Freedom that they have a skateboard park close to home and don’t have to bum a ride or catch a bus to town to go skateboarding at a “real” park, and freedom from being hollered at by a business operator at the mall because they’re riding their board on the curb outside the storefront.
So yes, it is a lot more than a skateboard park.
Hart Community Association chair Kristi Francis kicked off the official opening ceremony by saying “wow, this is amazing to see so many people here today and to have the colour guard behind us just highlights what a special event this really is.”
“This started with a group of youth many years ago who petitioned for a skate park in the Hart, and around the same time members of the Hart Community Association saw a real need for park development in the Hart area.” She noted individuals and businesses in the Hart, as well as Ken Pendergast with the Nechako Rotary, jumped on board with their support right from the beginning.
Trying her best to hold back tears, Francis emotionally told the crowd “the naming of this park really renewed energy and enthusiasm for something special to happen here, and today something special is happening here. This is the beginning of a space for all community members to enjoy, and we are extremely grateful to the City of Prince George staff members who advocated alongside us (and) to Mayor Hall and council members who supported this project.”
The parents of Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick, Coleen and Jim Fitzpatrick, stepped forward with Coleen saying “I can’t tell you how pleased we are to be able to share this day with our community, our family and all of our friends.” Holding back tears she continued “I also can’t tell you how special this is for us to be able to share a park with Darren’s name, and to be able to recognize and honour our vets.”
Mayor Lyn Hall acknowledged that Kristi Francis and Corrine Graham-Smith “have been involved with this for a decade” and noted that Francis’ daughter, who was then one-year-old, is now twelve. “What a great job you’ve done and to have that tenacity to hang in there for a decade. Not only that but to spur on a $6,000 fundraiser to put sod in here, that was an incredible feat and I want to thank you all for that.”
Hall said “it’s great to have Jim and Coleen Fitzpatrick here and for us to keep alive in our memories Darren Fitzpatrick, and that’s what this park is all about so I want to thank them for the opportunity for us to recognize their son.”
He thanked the many businesses and individuals who backed the project, City staff who handled planning and other facets and the Nechako Rotary Club which raised $36,000 for the skateboard park for their contributions.
And the mayor hints that future developments may be in the offing for the Hart area “Even before I set foot on the paved path somebody said to me, “what about a BMX park, what about enlarging this one? You know it’s something we can certainly look at.”
“There are plans here for a dog park, hard surface court, paved trails, picnic area, an interpretive area in honour of our Canadian Armed Forces, which I think is so appropriate. So we’ve outlined some of the future work which is going to be done here around the park in this area.”
With that the dignitaries and donors who contributed to the project held out a long banner which sensational skateboarder Brad King smashed through, officially opening the skateboard facility.
Kristi Francis says “our goal for this park is to be for everybody, all ages and multi-use.” Asked if she sees the park as a first step in the development of more facilities in the Hart she says “I really do because, as I mentioned, our association has been advocating for park development since my oldest daughter was one-year-old. I think we finally came across a council that was ready to listen and recognized the needs of the Hart.”
“Also staff at the City has been advocating along with usWe have great support from some staff members at City Hall so ya, I really do see this as the beginning for the Hart getting the recognition it deserves and it needs, particularly with respect to park development.”
She also says her 5-member association “has been at this a long time and I would like to see other community residents take the torch and join us and be a part of creating more special places here in the Hart.”
Mayor Hall concurs with Francis in that the skateboard park could lead to more projects in the Hart “When I and council came in in late 2014 we talked to some folks from the community association in 2015 and said look, let’s try to move forward on this and here we are. The other thing that I would really like to see in the Hart is senior housing. There’s a real need for it and so we’re going to work hard to see what we can do there.”
Regarding more park development in that part of town Hall says “what we’re going to get very quickly is the Park Strategy coming back to council and I know that they’ve heard loud and clear from residents are specific areas of the Hart where they want to have a park. They are adamant and working diligently to have more parkland here and I know that strategy will identify the locations.”
One of the driving forces who refused to let the skateboard park project die was Ken Pendergast. He says “half a dozen years ago the park became our priority so we started looking at fundraising for that purpose.” He says after partnering with the community association and the City “we looked at some different sites, one of them being this place here. This was our number one preference because of the locality to the mall, high visibility, those kinds of things as opposed to being kind of out of sight, out of mind where we weren’t really comfortable with some of the things that would be going on.”
“We started the fundraising and then it got postponed for a couple of years because we had a change of management in the City. So we were a little disappointed waiting and waiting and so when Mayor Lyn Hall got involved we approached him and said what about the park, and he said ya it’s time. We’ve been absolutely amazed and impressed with how quickly it’s moved ahead since that time.I mean we’ve had to wait for council on a number of different things, but it all kind of fell together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
Pendergast says “we only put up a very small portion ($36,000) of the overall cost ($500,000) here. A lot of it is the taxpayers and other donors, so we’re just very fortunate in that we were part of the process in the first place. And the unofficial partnership with the Hart Community Association and the City people worked very well.”
The final word on the new park goes to a couple of kids who will be using it. Charlie says “I think it’s amazing that you don’t have to go all the way into downtown, especially when you live kinda out of town in the Hart.” Will you use it a lot? “Ya, I live close by so it’s good to come here a lot.” And what about the layout, do you like it? “Yes, I think it’s better than the one downtown, it’s a different layout, better park.”
And Austin says “I think it’s pretty cool.” Will you use it lots? “Ya I think so.” While he doesn’t live in the Hart area he says he will head to the area anyway Asked if he likes one park over the other Austin says “I like both of them for the same reasons (but) I like this one because it’s all new stuff and there’s some different things to ride.”