Lo­cal skate park group hope for fund­ing

The Casket - - Health & Wellness - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­ald@the­cas­ket.ca

The Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive has its fin­gers crossed, and is hop­ing the many lo­cal votes they’ve re­ceived count. The Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive is one of four fi­nal­ists in Kraft Heinz Project Play, a project that awards grant money to com­mu­ni­ties across Canada, to help build places to play.

This year, the grand prize is $250,000, and the lo­cal skate park to be is one of four projects that have made it to the fi­nals. Even if they aren’t de­clared the grand prize win­ner, as a fi­nal­ist in the con­test, the Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive will re­ceive $25,000. Ja­son Ma­son, a mem­ber of the col­lec­tive and a pro­fes­sional skate­board and snow­boarder orig­i­nally from Antigo­nish, said po­ten­tially win­ning $250,000 for the skate park “is a big deal for us.”

“Both Tara [Hassin] and I have been driv­ing around town for the last few days, hand­ing out posters to busi­ness, telling the staff and cit­i­zens of Antigo­nish that the quar­ter-mil­lion dol­lars that comes into Antigo­nish, stays in Antigo­nish.” Ma­son urged ev­ery­one to vote, be­cause the $250,000 grant will do more than just sub­si­dize a skate park’s con­struc­tion.

“I don’t want peo­ple to feel like, ‘I don’t skate­board so I don’t care.’ That’s fine, but this will still bring a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars into the town,” Ma­son said. “That in­creases ev­ery­one’s value lo­cally. There are more peo­ple buy­ing sand­wiches and get­ting hair­cuts.”

Ma­son de­scribed the skate park as a "sleep­ing gi­ant," em­pha­siz­ing that peo­ple don’t re­al­ize the value a world-class skate park will bring to Antigo­nish.

"Peo­ple aren’t an­tic­i­pat­ing the tourism it will bring; the cul­tural in­flu­ence it will bring. Those have enor­mous val­ues that peo­ple will be re­ally happy about,” Ma­son said. “Once it’s all open, and ev­ery­one sees the re­sults, it will give Antigo­nish the op­por­tu­nity to be the best it can be.”

Most im­por­tant of all to Ma­son is the abil­ity Antigo­nish will have to re­tain youth, with a re­source like a world-class skate park.

“Antigo­nish has a big prob­lem keep­ing young peo­ple in Antigo­nish. Af­ter high school, they go to Al­berta or B.C. where peo­ple build things for them. There are al­ready things there that in­ter­est them,” Ma­son said. “We want to keep youth in town, to keep the skate park, so kids don’t have to go to an­other town for it.”

Ma­son em­pha­sized that re­tain­ing youth will help Antigo­nish re­tain col­lat­eral cul­tural in­flu­ences; “in a town where kids can start busi­nesses, grow fam­i­lies and won’t have to go west do those things. We’re lis­ten­ing to them, and that’s the main goal – to keep youth in town.”

Town of Antigo­nish Mayor Lau­rie Boucher de­scribed the po­ten­tial $250,000 sup­port as “huge for the skate park and phe­nom­e­nal.”

“It would re­ally se­cure the park, go­ing for­ward with its sched­ule. Even the $25,000 the Skate Park Col­lec­tive will get is go­ing to help them with their fundrais­ing.”

Boucher com­mended the Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive for its en­try to the con­test, which fea­tures a video out­lin­ing the lo­cal need for a skate park. The video was shown to coun­cil at its reg­u­lar monthly meet­ing on Oct. 15, and Boucher, the rest of coun­cil, and town staff mem­bers present all voted in favour of the skate park on the web­site where votes are be­ing col­lected.

“It was very well done, and it looks great,” Boucher said.

Matthew Bruce, brand man­ager for Kraft Heinz Canada, said the Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive was cho­sen as a fi­nal­ist af­ter it met cri­te­ria through an­swer­ing two ques­tions; de­scrib­ing how the quar­ter-mil­lion would be spent, and the ef­fect a skate park would have on the broader com­mu­nity.

“It’s a great story. It’s a project that is over 30 years in the mak­ing – and it was in­spir­ing to hear about some of the bat­tles the res­i­dents are hav­ing, through the bans and fines they’ve faced,” Bruce said. “We want to be able to pro­vide a safe space for chil­dren and youth in the com­mu­nity to ride skate­boards, scoot­ers and bikes. It’s a truly amaz­ing story, and I’m happy to have Antigo­nish in our top four.”

Vot­ing for the project opened Oct. 13, and closed Oct. 19. The win­ner of the $250,000 grant will be an­nounced Oct. 28, dur­ing the half­time of the game be­tween the Toronto Arg­onauts and the Mon­treal Alou­ettes, on TSN.

Res­i­dents and mem­bers of the Antigo­nish Skate Park Col­lec­tive, cel­e­brate the an­nounce­ment of a plan to build a world-class skate park in Antigo­nish.

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