Nathan Rinkel

Nathan Rinkel

New athletics park filled with smiles

The North Okanagan is on track with Vernon’s new athletics park, which opened Friday

The North Okanagan is on track with Vernon’s new athletics park, which opened Friday.

“I love it, it’s easy on the legs and knees,” said Val Janzen, while walking the rubberized track at the Greater Vernon Athletics Park. “It’s very nice here, it’s beautiful.”

Walking with friend Gloria Larratt, the Armstrong ladies are pleased to see Greater Vernon finally have the amenity.

“We came all the way down here to try it out,” said Larratt, who expects there will be many more trips to Vernon to utilize the park.

“It’s not that far in,” said Janzen. “And it would save on our legs a bit.”

The park saw an influx of individuals, families and couples playing football, soccer, running and walking Friday. The entire park isn’t quite finished, with some construction ongoing on the building, which is expected to be completed for a grand opening Sept. 26.

But a sneak peek into the facilities had Tannis Nelson, Regional District of North Okanagan community development co-ordinator, gushing about the fine work contractors have done.

“It’s an amazing facility,” said Nelson, admiring the Kalamalka Lake views from the meeting room.

And since the closest comparable facility is in Kamloops at Thompson Rivers University, there has been an influx of interest from sports groups across the Okanagan.

“One of the football coaches, he’s just ecstatic,” said Nelson, as the artificial grass cork field will reduce impact and injuries.

The facility has also gained nods from other sports.

“We had Dylan Armstrong the Olympian (shot putter) here and he was just really impressed,” said Nelson. “He’s really excited.”

Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton also came by Friday to check out the new park, which could lead to athletic development camps with the college.

“It’s long overdue for the community,” said Hamilton.

And it is also already proving to help residents stay active.

Linda Jack got in one of the first laps around the track Friday and is now looking forward to getting back into running on the low-impact regulation track.

“It puts a little bounce in your step.”

The park is open dawn until dusk to the public, with free parking in blue painted stalls and commissionaires on hand to explain proper etiquette and provide security in the evenings.