The grand opening of the Greg Ens Memorial Park in front of Winkler's Centennial Arena took place Tuesday afternoon, with an overwhelming show of support from the community.
The ceremony was facilitated by Winkler Horticulture's Jodi Szutu whose question got the ball rolling in creating such a beautiful space. She had seen the large hockey stick, made possible by Meridian, and thought it looked lonely, and asked if more could be done.
"Then a few days later, I guess Margaret had talked to somebody, and they said, 'Yeah, sure. Why don't you come up with a plan and show it to us in two or three days.' So, she told me, and I had two or three days to try and come up with something. Thankfully, the Horticulture Executive ladies came up with a few ideas like the path for the skating loop, and putting some artwork in, or like sculptures of some kind, and a shelter, maybe a fire pit, things like that, they started coming up with. So, that was very helpful, and then I did the plant design."
Andreas Huebert was tasked with creating the three hockey statues installed in November 2021. Plants and shrubs were made available for donors to purchase in memory of a loved one, and many were spoken for early on in the project, helping it to move forward. There are still some available to be added if anyone would like to purchase one.
Szutu recognized the work of the Horticulture Society in designing, planting and maintaining the park. She gave thanks to the City of Winkler, and the many city workers and community volunteers, for coming alongside their efforts to create this space.
Greg Ens' widow, Kelly Ens, talked about who Greg was, and the significance of the location of the park.
"Greg had a love for sport. He grew up just a block away from here, and spent many hours at the Winkler Park. Sport was important to him, but it was a bridge to other things, which were connecting with people. So, whether it was work, whether it was time in the arena or the ball diamonds or soccer field, it was about connecting with your fellow person, and getting to know each other, and making the community a better place."
"This is a phenomenal, special day for the City of Winkler," declared Mayor Martin Harder. He went on to say, seeing community come together one more time, not only to remember what was happening today (Tuesday) and looking into the future, but looking at the history. Remembering those in the past who have contributed to this community to bring it to where it is today.
He described Greg, and the significance of naming the park after him.
"He was a caring individual, and this park just represented him so well. When I chatted about it with his dad, he was rather humble to think maybe this could be named after him, but I said, 'This has to be,' because he's the guy we need to remember, because of his contribution. Grateful for people like that, grateful for a giving community, just very thankful. Enjoy this park for many years to come. It'll grow up to be something very special."
Kelly surmised what Greg would have thought about this park named in his honour.
"I think it would be unbelievable for him to know they've put this together. For Greg, whether a sport or business, it was about connecting with people, and I think that's what this park can be for many people; an opportunity where we gather, where we connect, where we build that community spirit with one another, and move forward."