The dilapidated state of the track at Ballenas Secondary is making it unsafe for athletes to train on. The head of the Oceanside Track and Field Club, Jane Waite, wants the track to be upgraded sooner. — NEWS file photo

Local running club wants track to be upgraded

President asks RDN to find a way to make improvements now instead of later

The Oceanside Track and Field Club has been making requests to local municipalities and regional district to do something about the dilapidated running track at Ballenas Secondary School.

Jane Waite, president of the OTFC, requested the RDN to look at upgrading the current deteriorating cinder track to a four-lane, rubberized surface track during her appearance last week as a delegation at the District 69 Recreation Commission.

“The track conditions are appalling,” said Waite. “It’s turning into a field and we’re losing it.”

The track is located at Parksville’s Ballenas Secondary School. It has been in existence since the 1970s and has gone through minimal upgrades since then. Waite said in the last 42 years, the amount spent on the track has been $44,500, jointly funded by the OTFC, the Regional District of Nanaimo and School District 69 (Qualicum).

Waite said despite the rough conditions of the track, it is still being used by the local track club, students from Ballenas Secondary, Kwalikum Secondary and the area’s elementary schools, sports groups and also occasionally by the residents in the community.

However, Waite said, the uneven surface, the water pooling that occurs after it rains, the muddy conditions and other issues make it dangerous for the athletes and recreational users.

In the 2006 Recreation Services Master Plan for Parksville Qualicum Beach, a track and field facility was one of the main projects to be given future consideration. A Track and Field Facility Feasibility Study was conducted in 2009 through a joint venture between the school district and the regional district.

Yates, Thorn and Associates Inc. was commissioned to produce a report that looks at the issues and options for developing a new track and field facility to serve the residents of District 69. Four options were identified; upgrading the current Ballenas Secondary School Track and Field Facility for approximately $709,000; rebuilding a secondary school track as a training track for $1.5 million; replacing the existing Ballenas track with a full, eight-lane competition track for about $2.5 million; and building a new track at a new outdoor sports complex that would also cost approximately $2.5, not including the cost for additional infrastructure for the new site.

The option to build a full-eight lane track was reviewed but the cost was a deterrent. A scaled-back option was suggested. In 2014, the RDN and SD69 explored the feasibility of resurfacing the existing track and converting it to a three-lane track with a six-lane straightaway. But it was later determined that the investment required would not be the best use of community funds and that a bigger facility, although more expensive, would benefit more of the existing field user groups, including school-based programs.

The track issue was then referred to the 2016 Recreation Services Master Plan development, which was to look at conducting a needs assessment for an outdoor multi-sport complex.

Waite said that will take another 10 to 15 years to happen. She wants to see upgrades done sooner, with a three-lane track or a narrow, four-lane track with six lanes for the 100m sprint distance. She cited a similar track in Victoria.

“It’s perfect for training purposes,” said Waite. “A narrow, four-lane rubberized surface, with six sprint lanes in front of the long jump site, will be used a lot.”

Having a training track here will allow the community’s high-profile athletes to stay in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area instead of leaving to train elsewhere, said Waite.

Bill Veenhof, Electoral Area H director, made a motion that RDN board ask the School District 69 school board to enter into discussions with staff on the feasibility of creating a track at Ballenas Secondary.

Veenhof said the board was close to addressing this issue in 2014, but felt the RDN and SD69 were not “synchronized.” He added that the best thing the RDN could do for the recreation side in SD69 and immediate areas, is to create a track.

He agrees the long-term plan for a sportsplex in Parksville Qualicum Beach will take time to process, but the “opportunity to at least to put a track on the ground would be a good discussion to have.”

The commission approved the motion.

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