Layton’s family, including widow Olivia Chow, mother Doris Layton, Jack’s adult children and much loved and oft bragged about granddaughter, Beatrice, among other grandchildren and family members, were on hand on the very warm, sunny afternoon. Political attendees included NDP Leader and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Jamie Nicholls, MNA Yvon Marcoux and scores more “who made the trip from the hill,” according to Layton’s long-time Chief of Staff, Anne McGrath.
“He would have loved this,” McGrath added, saying that driving into Hudson was like taking a trip down memory lane through Jack’s eyes.
“Jack told so many stories about growing up in Hudson... As I drove into town I told my husband some of them when we passed places like the high school or the yacht club,” she said.
During the welcome speech, Mayor Michael Elliott shared his own story involving the Hudson Yacht Club and a youthful Jack, who even then had visions of activism in his mind. Serving as the club’s youth club president, Layton decided to exercise his right to invite whomever he wanted to an exclusive yacht club party, regardless of if they could afford the club’s membership fees.
“So he invited the entire town of Hudson,” Elliott said, to much laughter.
Now anyone who wants to enjoy an idyllic and picturesque slice of Hudson waterfront property can do so - and without an invitation - at the landscaped park that boasts benches, a walking path and picnic tables.
For her part, a smiling and upbeat Chow said Jack would have been “very honoured and touched” by the park bearing his name.
Mulcair also added a note of levity to the proceedings, joking that Quebec’s many orange construction cones were, in reality, tributes to the NDP orange wave.
And in addition to inaugurating the park, local artist Daniel Gautier unveiled a framed tribute painting of Layton in which his piercing blue eyes were prominently featured.
Elliott passed along a few regrets from those invited to the event, yet who were unable to attend.
One such regret came from Buckingham Palace, while others were sent from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Those who did make it to the well-attended event were treated to award winning music courtesy of the Westwood Sr. High School senior band, while the town additionally gave welcome gifts in the form of re-usable Town of Hudson bags.
Jack Layton Park is the final phase of the Sandy Beach Nature Park project that was begun in 2008 by then mayor Elizabeth Corker and her town council. The newly named park links to a diverse trail network that ends at Sandy Beach and which includes charming wooden bridges and overlooks.
The park also boasts a public boat launch. The Town says there are plans to add recreational water rentals in the future.
Layton, who passed away after a long battle with cancer, died Aug. 22, 2011. He was 61.
The former NDP leader, who hailed from Hudson, was born into a political family. His father, Robert Layton, was a Conservative MP, and Layton followed in his father’s footsteps early. Not only did he serve as youth club president at the Hudson Yacht Club, but Layton was elected student council president at the then Hudson High School (now renamed Westwood Sr. High School).
The family moved from Hudson to Toronto in 1970.