It is doubtful there has ever been a Kimberley City Councillor more beloved — especially with young people — than the late Bob McWhinnie, who passed away in January 2010.
Bob was a substitute teacher and a very engaging sports announcer for everything from junior skiing to bocce. He was the voice of KIOTAC in Kimberley for many years. He was a familiar sight buzzing around town on his bicycle. And he was a City Councillor who kept the needs of Kimberley’s youth top of mind.
McWhinnie’s lasting legacy to Kimberley youth is the skate/bike park on Rotary Drive and Marsden Street.
Bob was like a dog with a bone over that park — it was going to happen no matter the obstacle because he simply would not allow it to stall. He rode his bike all over town pondering locations, and made compelling arguments for all of them, finally deciding the Marsden Street sight was the one. He fought for grant money, and he was at the site daily as it was built.
Once the skate bowls opened, he turned his attention to building a bike park just past them. He worked on it himself, with shovel and wheelbarrow and usually a crowd of kids helping him. And a big smile on his face.
Bob didn’t want a big fuss made when he was ill, and he informed then-Mayor Jim Ogilvie that he didn’t want the skate park named after him, so it wasn’t. But everyone in Kimberley knows that it’s Bob’s park.
There is a plaque on a large rock at the park — a rock Bob had his eye on when he was working at the skate park. It was moved to a prominent location and the plaque installed. It says “Recreate in Peace” — a very Bob-like sentiment.
Not two months after McWhinnie passed away the first Bob McWhinnie Day was held at the Skate Park. It was a way of honouring Bob by enjoying the park he built, and it was a huge success. Kids and their parents turned out in big numbers. There were a lot of smiles, a few tears, and a spirit of community that I think would have delighted Bob McWhinnie.
It has become a yearly event and the 2013 rendition will be celebrated this Sunday, April 28 at the Kimberley Skate Park. Proceeds from previous McWhinnie Days have helped with the construction of washrooms at the park, and they will be open for the event.
McWhinnie Day is organized, yet not. Skaters and bikers are simply invited to jam — to show off tricks and skills. There will be a hot dog sale and a bake sale, and if you’d like to bring something along for the bake sale, it would be appreciated.
There will be live music and a great family atmosphere — just what Bob McWhinnie would have wanted.
It all begins at 11 a.m. this Sunday. Hope to see you at the park that Bob built.