It was a momentous afternoon for Henley as the ribbon was at last cut to open the new skatepark yesterday afternoon. After six and a half years of effort the dreams of local skating enthusiasts have finally been realised. The £290k project was led by the Henley Skatepark Initiative (HSI), who have worked relentlessly to build an exceptional park for the town to enjoy.
The park, located on Makins Recreation Ground, was funded by a combination of South Oxfordshire District Council, Henley Town Council, Sport England, and the Thamesfield Youth Association, in addition to the money raised by the HSI and a generous loan from town resident. It features ledges, waterfalls, rails, a stair set and a large bowl, and is suitable for skateboards, BMX bikes and scooters alike. Even the British weather won’t limit the fun too much thanks to the park’s sophisticated drainage system!
Colin Brathwaite, a member of the HSI and a Henley resident for 43 years, was delighted to see the project completed, having been a key instigator in the park’s development. He commented, “What a magnificent day for Henley. Some said it couldn’t be done, some said we were being too ambitious, some said we couldn’t raise this amount of money. At times, people told us to give up, yet here we are. We set an ambitious target, we believed in aiming high, striving to achieve the best for our community. We have proven all the doubters wrong. Never let anyone stand in the way of your dreams. We feared nothing, we overcame, and we achieved our goal. As Barack Obama famously said, ‘Yes we can’. This feels like a joyous daybreak at the end of a long night.
“Six and a half years of tireless hard work and a mammoth journey has led to Henley having its own state-of-the-art Olympic quality skatepark that will provide for the residents of Henley for decades to come. It is another magnificent string to Henley’s already impressive bow. We now stand on the summit of the huge mountain we have had to climb. Let this be a shining example of community action, and proof to all that anything if possible. If you have an idea to improve Henley, stand up, act now, and you can achieve the seemingly impossible. Anything is possible in life with vision, hard work, determination and a rock solid belief in what you are trying to do.”
He continued, “It’s a humbling feeling to create something in life that will be around longer than I am. We’d like to extend our thanks to everyone that has supported this project, particularly the HRG councillors, who got behind us from the start. A special thank you to Stefan Gawrysiak and Kellie Hinton. Another special thank you to the council staff Becky Walker, the town clerk Janet Wheeler and Liz Jones. A huge thanks goes out to our funding partnets, HTC, the Thamesfield Youth Association, SODC and Sport England, and anyone that donated money towards the project. The aim of the skatepark is to encourage active and healthy lifestyles, with a focus on youth development, equality, moral values, and respect.”
Henley Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton said, “Yesterday was really emotional, comparable to me personally, with no other achievement in the past 6 years with Henley Town Council. It’s been a long hard battle and although myself and a few other councillors have helped and been part of the campaign, really this is all down to Colin Brathwaite, James Lipscomb, Andy Seldon and the rest of the Henley Skate park Initiative. For over six years we have wanted and fought for this to be built and to see it here, looking as beautiful and as state of the art as it does is just extremely satisfying and somewhat tear inducing! I’m so proud of everyone involved, from the first public meeting to the park being built. I can’t wait to see what skating Olympians Henley can now produce! We also couldn’t have spread awareness and gained such support without backing from local media such as the Henley Herald so thank you too.”
Ian Jennings, the Maverick Industries Designer and skatepark builder, also expressed his satisfaction. “I’m really proud of this project. I think it achieves a lot without trying too hard. The timeless design looks back as well as forward, with parts that feel more like the 70’s style of parks, alongside some very modern features,” he said. “Both as accessible and fun as it is challenging and progressive, the hope is that everyone will enjoy this fantastic facility for many years to come. It’s a great asset to Henley and to the rapidly improving skatepark landscape in the UK.”
Russ Holbert, the Design Director at Maverick, echoed these sentiments. “Maverick have been delighted to support Henley Town Council and the Henley Skatepark Initiative to bring this exciting project to fruition. We originally met with the local user group back in 2011, and the design evolved over time to create what we believe will be a destination park for the UK.” Russ went on to congratulate the team involved, stating, “The energy and determination demonstrated by the Henley Skate Initiative, and in particular Colin Brathwaite and Jimmy Lipscomb, sets a great example to other projects to show them what can happen when a community group is formed, working closely in partnership with the local council. Henley Town Council now has one of the best skateparks in the UK!”