FORMER sports minister Hugh Raymond was brought to tears as the long-awaited Les Quennevais skate park finally opened.
Hundreds attended the official opening on Saturday afternoon, where the current minister with responsibility for sport, Deputy Lucy Stephenson, formally welcomed Islanders to the £1.9 million facility alongside representatives from the Jersey Skateparks Association.
Deputy Stephenson thanked several teams and individuals, including her ministerial predecessors Hugh Raymond and Steve Pallett – who were both in attendance.
She said that the new park was ‘hopefully just the start of investment in our urban sport facilities’.
Deputy Stephenson added: ‘It is a culmination of effort by a great many people and groups. There have been some delays, but this project is an excellent example of community and government working together to deliver something incredible for Islanders and visitors alike. It is also an important reminder that sport and physical activity comes in many forms, and this skate park is purposefully designed to cater for a variety of urban sports – as well as different ages and abilities. I have no doubt that there will be a further surge in interest in urban sport as a result.’
She said: ‘There is funding allocated in the Government Plan for 2023 for feasibility work on a St Helier park, and proposals are progressing for a pilot scheme in the Millennium Town Park to trial the installation of skate-friendly street furniture.’
The new Les Quennevais facility is the result of years of campaigning, consultations and meetings, which at one stage saw a celebrity of the sport – ten-time X Games winner Tony Hawk – urge Islanders to ‘keep up the fight’ in their crusade for skateparks.
Much of the political debate took place under the previous government, when Mr Raymond and Mr Pallett were still in office.
Mr Raymond said: ‘To be perfectly frank, it’s brought tears to my face – it’s just great to see so many people here. It would be silly not to say we’ve had our ups and downs, but my god we’ve achieved it and it’s good for the kids. We [need to] make sure we look after it and it’s well used – I’m sure it will be – but the way it’s been set out is fantastic. It’s been a long, hard haul with delays at times but we got there in the end.’
Mr Pallett said people had to realise that ‘any project in the States takes time’, but added that the new facility was a ‘superb finish’.
‘I have got to thank the people that followed me, Hugh and Lucy for keeping the ball rolling – there were some delays but they kept the pressure on politically.’
He also thanked the government Sports Division and operations director Barclay Harvey, who he described as ‘a key member all the way through’.