It’s almost summer in Newfoundland, but actress Mary Walsh is not raving about the sunshine.
She’s ecstatic about the transformation Bannerman Park is undergoing and is practically giddy with every new detail being worked on.
“I think it’s really great. People are very excited about the new things at Bannerman Park and one of the things they are most excited about, from what I hear anyway, is the new skating trail,” said Walsh, campaign chairwoman of the Bannerman Park Foundation.
“I saw the (ice trail) in Halifax and people use it like crazy. They’re really fond of it. And I can see from the Halifax oval people are really hungry for an outdoor skating rink and it will be well used. So it’s fantastic,” she said of the awarding of the tender for the park’s ice trail.
The master plan for the park’s revitalization has been ongoing for several years, but it’s only been in the past couple that a foundation has been put in place to fundraise for the project, and the past couple of months that construction work has been underway.
The plan includes an ice skating trail, a Victorian-style poolhouse, a garden of memories, a new playground and a new pavilion.
The latest piece of the overall plan is the awarding of the tender for the ice trail, which was done last week by city council to Redwood Construction Ltd. for $1,853,653.10 plus HST.
David Blackmore, the city’s director of building and property management, said the tender cost includes the construction of the trail, which will be 275 metres long and four to five metres wide, with a couple of inlets on the sides.
It also includes landscaping, lighting, a sound system and the mechanical equipment for keeping the surface cold.
“It’s moving along quite well,” said Blackmore. “Plans on the ice trail are finalized, the tender has been awarded and they anticipate work starting next week,” he told The Telegram Tuesday.
Blackmore said they’re just waiting on finalizing the contracts.
“We’re very anxious to get started. The plan is to have it up and running for this winter,” he said.
Blackmore said the total surface can accommodate up to 200 people and is designed for family and leisurely skating, not speed skating or scooting around with a hockey stick.
“This one is even better (than the Halifax oval) because it’s more of a trail and you’re not just going around in a circle or an oval,” said Walsh, who grew up in downtown St. John’s.
“This will take you through bits and bobs of the park and it’s like a figure 8 in my mind, so it will be fabulous.”
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The total cost of the Bannerman Park revitalization project is about $6 million.
The goal of the foundation is to raise $3 million by June 2014, with the city matching the funds dollar for dollar.
About $1.3 million has been raised by the foundation so far and the federal government has provided funding towards work on the poolhouse in the amount of $496,000. The hope is for most of the work to be finished next year.
Walsh, of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” fame, said she’s enjoying her work with the foundation.
“Fundraising is going brilliantly,” she said.
“The sense I get is that Bannerman Park is a special place to many Newfoundlanders and I feel so happy to be part of it because it is so nice to be part of something that everybody is positive about — not like politics or anything like that,” Walsh said, laughing.
As for the cost of the project, she said she hasn’t heard any criticism or complaints from people about money being invested in the park, which was given to the people of St. John’s in 1864 by governor Sir Alexander Bannerman.
“I haven’t heard any pooh-poohers because Bannerman Park has been there and has served everybody and is a very egalitarian space, isn’t it?” Walsh said.
“It serves everybody from the little hacky sack guys, right up to the people who have those big houses on Military Road, and it’s been neglected for far too long and yet has continued to offer great service to the citizens for all that time. And so it’s time it got a bit of love and attention. I think most people are feeling good about it and saying it’s about time.”