The ring of pucks hitting the boarded sides of hockey rinks; the sound of children laughing and playing outside – there are few things more joyful than listening to kids enjoying their childhood.
Sports and recreation have been staples of this community for decades, and our appetites for these pursuits continue to grow. The hockey community is clamouring for more indoor rink time. The swimming community desperately wants another indoor pool facility. Soccer continues to grow almost exponentially. Sports and recreation are a big part of St. Albert’s DNA, and if use of the new and improved skatepark is any indication, there is a lot of pent-up demand for outdoor activities.
Who knew that skateboarding is a St. Albert tradition with 20-plus years of history under its belt, or that St. Albert was something of a pioneer in this field of recreation back in the day? The roots of the newly rebuilt Woodlands Skatepark go back to 1997, when the original skatepark was one of the first of its kind built in Alberta. Youths and adults have been enjoying it ever since.
Over the past year, the skatepark underwent an expensive rebuild worth $1.67 million, and officially reopened to the public March 19. By all accounts, the project was more than worth the price the city paid for it, and it couldn't have opened at a more crucial time. It's bigger, it's better, and it's already being used by people of various ages from around the region. Anyone who has driven or walked by the skatepark since it reopened, or enjoyed an afternoon at the new structure, can testify to how popular it is already.
More than that, it's a sign of hope as we all continue to struggle with isolation, restrictions and the need to keep trying to lower our COVID-19 case counts. We're all weary of COVID-19, though many of us are still working to keep each other safe. Many of our youths have lost their regular sports seasons. All of us have lost recreation opportunities we love – swimming, group fitness, you name it. But hope springs eternal, and recreation is vital for wellness. The reopening of this facility signals green shoots for a positive spring even as we find ourselves in a third wave of this pandemic.
It's good to once again see what "normal" can look like, and it reminds us about what else might be coming down the pipe – activities that can help ease the burden of following COVID-19 protocols. As the weather continues to warm, we're certain to see more people taking to the Sturgeon River with their kayaks and canoes. The Woodlands Water Spray Park will at some point reopen. Gardening season is almost upon us. The organizers of popular St. Albert events like the Rainmaker Rodeo are still hopeful their events will take shape this summer.
For our children and youths especially, recreation opportunities also bring much-needed socializing, which has been seriously limited this past year. That makes events like the opening of the skatepark even more precious.