The official opening of the ‘Wade Drake and Burch Nash Family Park’ in Fortune Thursday was evidence that on occasion an event can be both somber and festive at the same time.
While many faces were bright and cheerful at the hard work and effort that had made the park a reality, and in the background the laughter of children enjoying the new equipment filled the air, still others were tearful with the memory of the two men whose names now adorn the facility.
Perhaps the most apt description came from Random-Burin-St. George’s MP Judy Foote, who called it “a silver lining out of tragedy.”
Fortune natives Wade Drake and Burch Nash were two of the 17 victims of Cougar Flight 491 – the infamous helicopter crashed that occurred offshore Mar. 12, 2009, when a Sikorsky S-92 was ferrying workers to the ‘SeaRose’ FPSO and Hibernia platform in a shift change.
Corey Parsons, also a Fortune native and district assistant to Grand Bank MHA Darin King, spearheaded the effort to build the park, as chair of a six-person committee and served as the ceremony’s emcee.
“What we have accomplished here is absolutely amazing. This evolved in 10 months – that’s what’s so magical about it. When we started in October, this just snowballed, right from day one.
“People recognized the importance that we needed a place in the community for our children. From there, it just grew and grew.”
By December of last year, Mr. Parsons explained it had become apparent something significant was in the works, and the decision was made to reflect that importance by naming the park after Mr. Drake and Mr. Nash.
He acknowledged preparations continued right up until just before the official opening when a final push ensured the project was complete.
In addition to serving as a memorial for the two men, others were invited to contribute trees and benches for the park in memory of their loved ones.
Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell acknowledged the facility, which is located on the site of a former playground that had become run down, said the new park went beyond council’s “wildest dreams” and thanked the committee for creating a facility the whole community can use.
“Seniors can use it and will use it, and parents can come and sit and read a book and do what they want to do while they’re watching their kids, and that’s makes it truly an age-friendly facility.
“It’s certainly something that all of Fortune will be very proud of for a long time to come.”
Along with the many private and corporate sponsors who contributed to the park, the provincial government all told donated over $200,000 through various funding initiatives as well as employment programs.
Mr. King, who grew up in the community himself and was a friend of both Fortune victims, said neither was the type to enjoy such fanfare.
“I do believe that naming the park after them and dedicating the benches to the many family members that the committee has done is a very honourable thing to do.”