Monday, June 2, 2014

Embracing & Celebrating the Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark

Photo Credit: Dr. Louis Albanese
What an amazing celebration on Saturday, May 31 for the Official Grand Opening of the Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark! The event marked the culmination of a year-and-a-half of community support that Mariah Bunz, Nicholas Loscavo, Reese Ashbee, and Cooper McIntee – members of the design committee and event Emcees – said “…has been nothing less than inspiring and motivating for everyone involved.”

As you know, the skatepark was built in memory of Isaac Riehl, a 14-year-old, Grade 9, E.L. Crossley Student, who tragically lost his life in October 2012 after being struck by a car while longboarding with his close friend Reese.

In honour of Isaac, the idea for a local skatepark was submitted to the Aviva Insurance Community Fund by fellow student Mariah and with the assistance of Isaac’s friend Nick.

The overwhelming community support for a skatepark in Isaac’s honour – including thousands of Facebook votes and Pelham Council’s commitment to not only build the skatepark but to match all donations – resulted in Aviva awarding the Town $115,000 toward the project. (This was announced at a special national broadcast on Canada AM on January 29, 2013 at E.L. Crossley High School.)

A design committee – which included Bonita, Ted, and Jacob Riehl (Isaac’s immediate family), a cross-section of Pelham youth, and Town staff – worked with various park users to choose the best location for the new skatepark. The also recommended a design and construction firm – New Line Skateparks – and worked diligently to oversee the park’s design and construction. Not only does the design include Pelham-specific and personalized features – like the “Comfort Maple” Volcano, the “Overholt Hill” Bank, and the “Message to Isaac” Flat Ledge – but it garnered a highly-coveted Parks & Recreation Ontario (PRO) Award of Excellence in Design for 2014!

During the park’s soft opening in December 2013 – coined the “Riehl Reveal” – the Town thanked donors, sponsors, and volunteers. I again acknowledged the community’s tremendous support of the skatepark as I spoke during the Grand Opening on Saturday; deep appreciation again to Bill & Stephanie McWilliams, Tim Hortons Fonthill; Barb & Scott Christopher, Young Sod Farms; Rotary Club of Fonthill; 2013 Pelham Mayor’s Gala; Sam Reynolds, “Be Riehl, Be You” Campaign; E.L. Crossley Secondary School community; Niagara Catholic District School Board Technology program, and the hundreds of other donors.

Since the community overwhelmingly embraced the Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark, we achieved an amazing transformation together; together we turned an idea into reality, we revitalized an aging baseball diamond into a new skatepark, and we transformed our grief into a lasting memorial and a fitting celebration.

TVCogeco just posted a fabulous video about the Grand Opening of the Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark. Check it out out: TVCogeco. Thanks, Cogeco, for continuing to cover important community events!