The Elmira skate park opened last month and the organizers from Skate Elmira are thrilled with the finished product.
“It’s amazing,” said Kyle Wilton, the Elmira teen who spearheaded the project. “It’s honestly one of the most beautiful skate parks I have ever been at. It is very unique; not a lot of parks have the length where it feels like you can just go forever.”
The Bristow Park (southeast corner of First and Arthur Streets) facility cost some $400,000 and took several years of planning and fundraising.
The land was donated by the township but all of the funding came from grants, private donors and businesses in the community.
Ruby Weber, an accountant by trade, lent her experience to the cause, helping a small group of dedicated youth bring their vision to reality.
“The young men involved with Skate Elmira were absolutely great,” she said. “They were so enthusiastic. Whenever we hit a roadblock along the way and I was feeling discouraged, it just took a phone call from those guys to get me back on track.”
Plaques line the pathway leading up to the park recognizing the dozens of donors who pitched in. It’s a testament to Woolwich’s community spirit, Weber said.
“I was amazed when I started the fundraising this spring; it was incredible how many people got involved and the size of the sums they provided.”
A big chunk came from an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant ($150,000), but the rest came from a wide range of community members and businesses.
And they used the money well, Wilton said, starting with a world-class design and construction company.
“Spectrum is one of the top skate park builders in the world,” he said. “I had the opportunity of actually seeing a little bit of the construction and I got to know the guys who were building it. It takes a lot of skill; it’s not something that just any construction worker or regular tradesperson can do. There is a lot of training involved and all of the guys that worked on the project were skateboarders as well. It’s a real passion for them and that helps them to understand what is actually possible and also gives them an attention to details like little holes in the concrete that could affect a skateboarder, which might otherwise get missed.”
The design process was extremely detailed as well, with input along the way from Skate Elmira members.
“Since we didn’t have a lot of space width-wise without taking the big maple tree out, I think (designer) Jim Barnum wanted to create a long park where skaters can do continuous lines to keep themselves interested.”
The facility also has something for every level of skater and biker.
A massive two-tiered bowl featured at the east end of the park serves advanced users, while a myriad of ledges, ramps, steps, rails and quarter pipes provide obstacles and jumps for intermediate and beginner riders.
Skate Elmira executive member Dustin Martin was blown away by the park.
“It feels kind of surreal to see it now,” he said. “Standing here, looking at the park, it’s amazing. A couple years ago when we started at it, I thought we could pull it off, but it is amazing to see it now with people actually skating and enjoying it.”
David Paisley, also a member of the group’s executive, concurred.
“Seeing the vision become a reality is incredible,” he said. “And the biggest gift has been seeing it full.”
Unseasonably mild temperatures during December saw dozens of skaters, bikers and scooter riders pack the park, leading Paisley to joke that the only problem with the facility might be “that it’s too small.”
Fundraising continues for the project as the group looks to finish off the facility with landscaping. In the spring, an official opening ceremony will take place to celebrate the achievement of Skate Elmira members and recognize donors.