Virgil Business Association applauded for making facility a reality
The new skatepark in Niagara-on-the-Lake has already been bustling with activity, but on Friday was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Richard Wall, president of the Virgil Business Association, presented a $150,000 cheque to the town for the park.
He said members of the association have been involved with talks about the new skatepark for more than 10 years.
“There's a handful of us that have been involved in discussions for over a decade and we feel it's been a long time coming for this, but when I was thinking about it, I was reminded of something my mother used to tell me as a kid — 'Good things come to those who wait,' and I think this is a good testament to that.”
He singled out Dennis Dick, a longtime supporter of the associaiton, town councillor and “community leader” who died in August.
“Dennis was a long believer that we needed a permanent structure for the betterment of our community. That started a long time ago,” Wall said, noting the park was “put on hold” while the business association helped build the Virgil splash pad.
“About 2015, it came back to light, and took a few years of planning — a little longer than we anticipated — but I think we built a great project, and I'd just like to dedicate this grand opening to the memory of Dennis Dick and his perseverance and his vision to support what we built here today.”
Wall said while the Virgil Business Association is typically quiet and mostly recognized for the Virgil Stampede, it meets every month and members continually working on projects to help improve the town, “whether they're small, worth hundreds of dollars or thousands, and in this case hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
He said the entire park in Virgil is a testament to the association's vision.
“It started with one arena. It went to baseball diamonds, bleachers, lights for baseball diamonds, purchasing the orchard behind us which has now become a soccer field, the splash pad, playgrounds, you name it and now we are celebrating the next piece of infrastructure which has already been well used so I think the kids are enjoying it.”
Families are also important to the business group and “I think we've really created an all-ages sports park that is second to none in the area.”
He also thanked town staff for being involved in the project.
Tony Baldinelli, member of parliament for the Niagara Falls riding (which includes NOTL), said the park is all about community.
“This is an important facility that'll provide physical opportunities, social opportunities, and it's great for the mental well-being of our children to get out and have that ability to meet and use of a place such as this,” he said.
He thanked the Virgil Business Association, the Town of NOTL and all the volunteers who help out at the Virgil Stampede.
“It truly is all about community and what a fabulous community facility this is,” he said.
Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates said while there might have been disagreements about whether the skatepark was the right thing for NOTL, it's important to invest in young people and attract new families to town.
“We've already attracted seniors here, we know that,” he said. “But we need to attract young families. And by having a skatepark, young families will take a look at that and say 'Niagara-on-the-Lake gets it — they understand the importance of having a place for my kids to go get some exercise.' “
He said it's even more important during the pandemic, “as we're not allowed to do a lot of things in our community.”
“You have to invest in our young people,” Gates said.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero cut the ribbon, saying the project wouldn't have been possible without the help of the Virgil Business Association, town staff and NOTL residents.
“I really want to say that it is through co-operation of all the residents that we get amenities that we have in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we are able to continue to live the quality of life that we all love and look for in our lives,” she said.
She said she appreciates the efforts of town staff in helping to get the park completed.
“Quite often, they take the brunt of everyone's concerns, anger and even their enjoyment. But I really believe that they are not recognized enough for the professionalism they're carrying and their devotion to this town.”
She commended Wall and the businesses that donated to making the park a reality.
“I know I won't be on a skateboard but I can certainly walk the steps around so I'll be exercising here at some time,” Disero said.