By Stew Slater, Staff reporter
The effort to provide a Town of St. Marys-owned park filled with ramps and obstacles for skateboarding and similar activities got a huge boost last week with the announcement that $60,000 will be coming the town’s way courtesy of the Ontario government-financed Trillium Foundation.
“It wasn’t as much as we asked for but, to be honest, it was a lot more than we heard we might be getting,” was the response of St. Marys resident Jamie Forman, who — with the help of his son, Mackenzie, as well as many of Mackenzie’s friends — was one of the main community supporters of the proposed facility.
Mainly through the lobbying of Councillor Carey Pope, Forman and his group convinced the Town last year to get behind the proposal by offering land for a site. At the time, Pope argued that the Town had committed to replacing a skateboarding park at the St. Marys arena, which was dismantled several years ago after falling into disrepair.
Tentatively, the Town offered a piece of vacant land adjacent to the Fire Hall on James Street South. That remains the preferred site, although final approval was not sought from the Planning Department until financing for the X-Park was assured.
Last week’s announcement paves the way for that assurance to be given. Originally, the Town requested $75,000 from Trillium; councillors were later informed that the proposal would not be receiving that much, and could end up receiving just $25,000, if at all.
Pope and Forman, understandably, were thrilled to hear the $60,000 announcement. Speaking to the Journal Argus, Pope said the fundraising goal for the project is $150,000; with about $45,000 already secured from community and business donors, as well as money from some other sources, last week’s Trillium Foundation contribution leaves the group “about $20,000 short.”
“We know we could (build the facility) for less than what we originally said, but we still want to do what we originally set out to do, and make something that will be a really nice attraction for the kids.”
The next step is for the Town to put out a Request for Proposals to construct the X-Park, and Pope noted “we still have a little bit of time to get out and talk to some more people and businesses about donating.” She added that, with the Trillium funding now confirmed, there’s a good likelihood more donors will be interested in contributing — either financially, or with in-kind commitments of materials or services.
The town councillor believes that, when it came to decisions by the Trillium Foundation selection committee, a huge factor working in favour of the X-Park proposal was the ability of the grassroots group — composed almost entirely of kids and young adults who ride skateboards, BMX bicycles or scooters — to build community support. She said the list of donors to the project was long and diverse: from women’s groups to well-known corporations, contributing in excess of $45,000 to the fundraising campaign.
She compared that to a skateboard park proposal in a nearby municipality, which she didn’t want to name, where supporters of a project were only able to gather a few thousand dollars from community members.
“It’s just amazing, this community,” Pope said. “If this doesn’t show what St. Marys is all about, I don’t know what does.”