Skelton Park roots run deep

Explore Chilliwack: Skelton Park is special to the surrounding retirement community, and to the late Norman and Agnes Skelton.

The beautifully redesigned

The beautifully redesigned

A little park with a big family history, Skelton Park shines.

You may have noticed the one-acre patch of green space across from Chilliwack City Hall, but not known how cherished it is by the locals.

Skelton Park (8535 Young Road) got its name from the Skeltons, who have been a well-known family in Chilliwack since Robert Skelton and his wife and six children moved here in 1914.

After a few years to settle in, Robert Skelton purchased a wood-frame building on Wellington Avenue and, with the help of his sons Clifford and Norman, turned it into R.G. Skelton & Son Men’s Wear in 1926. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the store in March of 1930.

A few months down the road, the Skeltons had constructed a new structure that was built to last, The Skelton Building, a name that still reads clear in the concrete. Though Robert died in 1935, the Skelton Building remains at 45957 Wellington Ave, now home to Gord-Ray Men’s Wear Ltd.

Skelton Park is dedicated to Robert’s son, Norman Alfred Skelton. Throughout his life, Norman became recognized in the community as a principal in Chilliwack schools (1928-1952) and as a filbert nut farmer.

In 1964, Norman died at the young age of 55, but his wife Agnes made sure that he would forever be remembered in Chilliwack. Not only did she donate the park to the Township of Chilliwack in 1966 in his name, she also built Norman Manor Rest Home in 1967 as a monument to his memory.

Norman Manor Independent Living, renovated by Eldon Unger in the late ’90s and managed by Optima Properties, currently provides housing for 29 self-sufficient seniors. “It is a cute, quiet little community that provides a home-like setting,” said Wilma Wahl, manager at Optima Properties.

Wahl explained that Norman Manor residents will quite often go to Skelton Park, which is right next door, “for a picnic or just to hang out” in the newly renovated space.

Skelton Park, in its early days, had a large evergreen tree and a surrounding water pond. Due to a need for repeated repairs, and a cracked water feature that was beyond remedy, the park was renovated in 2013.

The $200,000 upgrade, designed by CHP architects, has transformed Skelton Park into a contemporary green space, with a water wall and a reflecting pool, plenty of access points and seating, and a prominent display of the park’s dedication.

The wheelchair-accessible park is a popular, serene destination for the surrounding retirement community, and the greater general public.

Agnes, who was an avid gardener, would be proud of the park’s colourful gardens that draw your eye as you travel down Young Road. Though Agnes passed away in 2006, her dedication has too been installed in the park, reunited with her husband in memory.

Do you have a favourite place to explore in Chilliwack? Email Sam Bates at sam.bates@theprogress.com.