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X-Park supporters worked hard for grant

St. Marys Journal Argus editorial

Young people can certainly make us proud. Any grandparent knows this. But there’s no escaping the fact that young people can also sometimes make us fume.

That’s why it has been heartening to witness the level of support granted by this community to the campaign to build a new facility for the people in this town who like to ride up and over ramps, rails and other obstacles on skateboards and BMX bikes (as well as — in case you haven’t noticed what seems to be latest trend among the kids — scooters . . . and also unicycles, if you’re like Motherwell’s Jack Sebben, who was profiled in last week’s Journal Argus).

“We’ve had so many different groups come forward and give us support,” enthused Town Councillor Carey Pope, who acted as the main liaison between the “X-Park” supporters and the Town during over a year of lobbying and fundraising that led, most recently, to the extremely welcome news that the project will receive $60,000 from the provincial government’s Trillium Foundation for community-supported initiatives.

Over a year ago, Pope — who has skateboarding children — used social media and her downtown storefront to bring together about a dozen kids of various sizes for a newspaper “photo op” announcing the X-Park campaign. From there, they fanned out across the community, attending Council meetings, setting up booths at the Farmers’ Market and special events, gathering more of their friends to contribute to the cause, and plastering the community — both real and virtual — with photos of famous (well . . . famous by St. Marys standards) people holding signs declaring “I support it.”

The list of donors is impressive, spanning from women’s groups, to downtown businesses, to companies that will be able to supply in-kind contributions once the facility is under construction.

Members of the Lions Club rose very early one Sunday morning — so as not to disrupt traffic — to transport the shade structure from the former Central School to the proposed X-Park site.

All this for a project which, in many communities, might be seen as a waste of money at best, and a recipe for trouble at worst.

Pope notes a skatepark project was launched in one nearby municipality and only a few thousand dollars could be raised from the community — compared, so far, to about $45,000 in St. Marys. One gets the impression that part of the reason so little could be raised was that some people believe inviting young skateboarders to a gathering place within your community is a mistake.

True, there’s probably an undercurrent of the same perspective here. It’s no secret that locating the new X-Park next to the Fire Hall, although it makes sense due to its proximity to the high school and its distance from nearby homes, has also led to a level of unease at the Fire Department. Because any trouble could detract from the ability of firefighters to do their job.

But, like so many of the diverse groups which “support it,” the Fire Department has looked beyond that factor, to the benefits the park will bring to that segment of this town’s population.

It’s entirely possible there will be trouble from time to time after the X-Park is built. But the same could be said for any new recreation facility. And it certainly doesn’t take away from the fact that the people who will use it worked hard for what they’ve achieved.

(S.S.)

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