The ribbon has been cut on Phase 1 of the Willow Park Project in Morris. 

"What an awesome addition to our community. It's just fantastic," gushed Pat Schmitke from Bigway Foods. 

Schmitke organizes a weekly car show on the food store's parking lot, an event that also creates awareness and raises money for community projects. 

"It's just off the charts. We're very pleased to have the organizing committee that did put this all together and raise the funds and got it done because yeah, it's incredible. And now if we can get the picnic shelter done, it'll be a full meal deal over here. It'll be awesome for us," he says.

The recreational greenspace features play structures for various age ranges, a full ninja course featuring two zip lines, an A-frame cargo net, a peg bridge, a ledge hanger plus fitness bars and benches as well as many accessibility features.

"It's a place with bathrooms," points out Janice Graydon, a member of the Willow Park committee. "A place where you can host corporate and private parties, those different kinds of things. There was a baseball tournament here a few weeks ago and there were lots - hundreds and hundreds of people. But the Porta Potties were an issue. They were running the canteen out of the baseball shed. The need for a facility like this is abundantly apparent."

Graydon believes the project will have a multitude of effects.

"In terms of the catalyst for the next phase of residential growth, I believe that it's going to attract a lot of visitors to our community, and create a really positive narrative about Morris and our community as a whole. Hopefully with the next phase of residential development that will also increase industrial interest as well to attract more businesses. This project is a real clear example of how much a community relies on businesses and corporations for their support."

In addition to grants from the province and the Morris Area Foundation, corporate and private donors contributed nearly $350,000 to the project, says Graydon.

Thursday's grand opening celebration also served as the kick-off for phase 2 of the project. It will include a picnic shelter to accommodate 150 people complete with family washrooms, canteen, and barbecue rentals for sporting tournaments, and public, family, and corporate events. 

Meantime, there was a party feel to the evening as attendees enjoyed the Bigway Show and Shine, free hot dogs, mini donuts, and live music by Whoopsie Dacey.

Morris Fire & Rescue made an appearance to showcase some of its equipment.