Loris King was a reluctant and humble recipient of praise from Friends of Pembroke Park (FOPP) on Saturday, during the big reveal of a new park bench installed in her honour on Wanaka’s lakefront green.
‘‘But this is dreadful’’, ‘‘this is so wrong’’, ‘‘what about the presidents’’, Mrs King kept saying as the group’s president Pam McRae ushered her towards the seat for a formal presentation.
Mrs King was a co-founder of Friends of Pembroke Park in 1996 and has served as its secretary and treasurer until very recently.
In her 66-page history book Pembroke Park Wanaka, published in 2017, Mrs King described the park as ‘‘saved by the people, for the people’’ and urged readers to ‘‘treasure it and be vigilant’’.
She continued to urge the same message on Saturday, fearing new generations of Wanaka residents might forget the park’s long journey from a cow paddock to community park.
For that reason, it was important people read the book, visited the Friends of Pembroke Park website and joined the association, she said.
‘‘We could be standing here with a community centre, a tea kiosk, a childrens’ playground and pond, a caretakers’ home,’’ she said,
‘‘Today we can enjoy this space . . .there’s not one person who can do that [alone],’’ Mrs King said.
She recalled one early campaign before the association formed was in 1995, when people put stakes into the ground to show people where a proposed community centre would go, then floated balloons from the top of them to show how high 10m would be.
‘‘People were coming to look all day, couldn’t believe what was going here,’’ Mrs King recalled.
Wanaka residents Noel Williams and Dave Garden, self described as ‘‘two old timers’’, were members of the founding committee and shared a moment on the park bench on Saturday with Mrs King.
‘‘She is incredibly persistent, she cannot let a thing go,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘This community owes you a debt, Loris. You have just stuck to it . . .to think we could have lost it,’’ he said.
‘‘I personally, sincerely believe, had this group not been formed, Pembroke Park would have buildings of some significance on it . . .’,’ Mrs McRae said.
‘‘Loris did an amazing job, with the support of the FOPP.’’
The park is occasionally used for sports, such as soccer or Challenge Wanaka, and other temporary events, including the annual Wanaka Show.
The 10.5ha park was originally an area of land set aside and known as the Commonage in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
It was designated as reserve in 1971.
The FOPP are keen for new members to join the association. Visit the website friendsofpembrokepark.co.nz for details.