OUR HISTORY: Parks honour citizens

  • Feb. 9, 2011 9:00 a.m.
A new park at the west end of Bobcat Drive was named after Gary MacDonald in October 2003.

A new park at the west end of Bobcat Drive was named after Gary MacDonald in October 2003.

Cedar Valley was first settled by early pioneers looking for fertile farmland and berry fields. More recently, subdivision development has resulted in a high-density area of single-family homes. Thanks to local planning initiatives, developers contribute an amenity fee which provides funds for developing local parks, playgrounds and trails.

In October, 2003 a new park at the west end of Bobcat Drive was named Gary MacDonald Park to honour the achievements of Mission’s first Olympic swimmer. MacDonald was born and raised in Mission, started his swimming career with the Mission Marlins at the old Kinsmen outdoor pool on Second Avenue, and went on to win numerous national and international awards. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, he won a gold medal and two bronze medals in freestyle events. At the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, MacDonald was part of the 4×100 metre relay team that won a silver medal. Mission recognized his achievements by naming him a Freeman, the youngest in this award’s history. MacDonald went on to a coaching career, including the Mission Marlins, and assistant coach of the Canadian Dolphins swim teams. He was inducted into the Mission sports hall of fame and currently represents Atlantic Canada on the Canadian Olympics committee.

Lightburn Park, at Christie and Phelps Avenues, was dedicated in 2003 to marksman Bill Lightburn. He started shooting as a boy on the Prairies, spent some time in California, and arrived in Mission in the 1940s. Lightburn had one of the longest championship careers in Canadian amateur sports history and won more medals than any other B.C. marksman, competing in provincial and Canadian matches on 34 different occasions. In 1971, he won a Queen’s 100 badge at Bisley as one of the top marksmen in the British Commonwealth. Lightburn was a founder of the Mission Rod and Gun Club, and in 1988 was inducted into Mission’s Sports Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2000.

Not as well known to most local residents is Tom Jones. The park named after him is located off Fennel Street at the end of Mitchell Avenue. Jones started his road to volleyball excellence as a high school player; from 1977 to 1984, he was an important member of the men’s national team. He was instrumental to the team’s fourth place finish at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games — Canada’s best-ever Olympic performance. Jones was a member of Team Canada’s Masters Volleyball team at the Global Cup Senior’s World Championship; they won the gold medal after a three-hour marathon match against the United States. He continued his career as a professional athlete in Europe for several years, where he played in many European Cup playoff games. In 2010, Volleyball Canada inducted Tom Jones into its hall of fame.

Information about Mission’s many parks and playgrounds is available at www.mission.ca and in the parks, recreation and culture program guide.

Sharon Syrette will be writing a number of columns on Mission parks and trails history in recognition of BC Heritage Week’s theme of parks and nature preserves.