Centennial neighbourhood park named after longtime resident Gord Dong
Dong, who immigrated to Winnipeg from Hong Kong in the '50s, has spent most of his life living in the area
A park in one of Winnipeg's poorest areas has been named after a man who fought for parks and redevelopment throughout the neighbourhood.
The Centennial neighbourhood is now home to Gord Dong park, named after the longtime resident and former president of the Centennial Community Improvement Association.
"It's quite an honour to have my name attached to this park and a piece of Winnipeg. Something that me and my family never could have ever expected," he said at a ceremony Tuesday morning.
Dong, an immigrant who moved to Winnipeg from Hong Kong in the '50s, first lived on Pacific Avenue — initially in a basement and then on the main floor of a house which his family shared with three other tenants.
He said some of his fondest memories were of playing on the area's train tracks, loading docks and local parks.
"I bought my house just three doors down from where I originally grew up," he said. "This is home."
Dong said his parents have passed away, but added he felt they would be "very proud" of having the park named after their son.
Gord Dong Park is located on green space west of the Exchange District along Ross Avenue between Ellen Street and Paulin Street.
Area councilor Mike Pagtakhan championed the renaming of the park due to Dong's continuing efforts to revitalize the neighbourhood.
Dong and several community members founded the Centennial Community Improvement Association and worked to get the neighbourhood designated as a housing improvement zone, in order to access funding from the Winnipeg Foundation and the City of Winnipeg.
"He did a lot of work in advocating for local parks and playgrounds to be improved," said Pagtakhan. "He called me a lot at my office at city hall to make sure those changes took place.
"He's been there through thick and thin throughout this whole process. It's such a remarkable thing to see such a quiet, powerful leader. I thought it would be great to name this parcel where he used to play as a kid after him.
"It's really symbolic of what I think Winnipeg is," Pagtakhan added. "It's the land of opportunity where somebody who immigrated from China, came here, grew up, stays here, continues to be involved, and see the neighbourhood transformed."
The park itself is slated for redevelopment and the city is asking the neighbourhood to weigh in with what they'd like to see by visiting the city's website.
Pagtakhan said he'd like to see it continue to be used for gardening — a garden was installed in the south end of the park by the CCIA several years ago — and also as a gathering and contemplative space.
However, he said he was also keen to hear residents' ideas.