A new park in West Orillia is open to the public and with a name sure to inspire.
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the City of Orillia announced the official opening and naming of the new neighbourhood park located on Orion Boulevard. The new park is named after Walter Henry, an acclaimed boxer who emigrated to Orillia in 1957 from Northern Ireland.
“Walter Henry is a local and national athletic hero. His list of accomplishments is impressive, and we are proud to call him one of Orillia’s own,” said Mayor Steve Clarke. “This new park will serve the growing population in West Orillia and has something for everyone in the city to enjoy. It will no doubt be a stand-out feature for Orillia, and for that Walter Henry is the perfect namesake.”
The City’s Recreation Advisory Committee recommended naming the park after Henry following a nomination to the committee by life-long Orillia resident Mel St. Onge. The name was ultimately approved by Council.
Henry rose to boxing fame in Canada, participating in his first fight in the country in 1958. He went on to represent Canada at the British Empire Games, the Pan American Games, and the Olympic Games, among others. In 1974, he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2015, Henry was voted “Orillia’s Greatest Athlete” and was inducted into the Orillia Sports Hall of Fame during its inaugural year.
“This is a great honour and I thank Mel St. Onge for the nomination and the City of Orillia for this and the many honours they have bestowed upon me over the years. I am truly humbled,” said Henry. “Physical activity and fresh air is important for our youth and parks such as this allow for a safe and fun place for them to enjoy.”
Walter Henry Park sits on 8.3 acres, including a preserved woodlot in the rear section of the park and sidewalk and trail connections out into the surrounding residential area. The park was approved by Council for $3.2 million and has been under construction since spring 2020 by Pine Valley Corporation. Landscape architects Brad Fleisher and Kelly Hunter from FRP Inc. designed the project.
Features include an adventure playground with a tree fort and oversized tube slide and a zipline. Also included are pickleball courts, a half basketball court, a toboggan hill, splash pad, shade structure, washroom building, butterfly garden, tree planting, an asphalt parking area, accessible trails and walkways, and an oversized concrete salamander designed as a climbable play feature.
The park is now open to the public and will be ready for full use in the summer of 2021.
For more information about Walter Henry Park, visit orillia.ca/parks.