The Parksville Lawn Bowling Club wants to convert its current grass green to an artificial surface and make it an all-season sport.
The club estimates the project will cost over $500,000. So far the club has raised $105,000 with the intention of making up the balance through provincial and federal grants, as well as community fundraising campaigns.
The club has approached local governments for letters of support to enhance the success of their grant applications. So far it has received letters from City of Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns and recently the Regional District of Nanaimo board unanimously approved the club’s request.
Once it’s built, the Parskville club will be the first to have an artificial lawn bowling surface on Vancouver Island and introduced all-season outdoor lawn bowling.
PLBC president Athol Trickett said there are significant advantages to converting to an artificial turf.
“The primary one is, it will save cost because obviously we will eliminate the use of fertilizers, sands for dressing, seeds, pesticides and herbicides,” said Trickett. “That’s a major factor.”
It will also dramatically reduce the club’s consumption of water.
“It doesn’t need any watering so we save a whole bunch of water which is one of the things the city council were very much in favour of,” said Trickett. “That’s because water tends to become more and more of a problem with the dry summers that we’ve been having.”
The club has more than 200 members — 167 playing members and 40 social members — making it the largest on the Island. But it consists mainly of seniors. Trickett said the task of maintaining the greens and other chores in the club are often handled by dedicated volunteers, who are not getting any younger.
“Some are getting to the point where the physical work required to use some of the equipment in working on the green they just can’t do it anymore,” said Trickett. “An artificial greens do not need heavy equipment. All you have to do is to vacuum it to make sure there are no debris on it. So it becomes a much, much easier task for our volunteers. And the size of the crews needed to do it changes considerably as well.”
The greens are used six days a week and are closed on Mondays for maintenance. The club regularly hosts a myriad of events that include fundraisers for different charities, tournaments, and also open it up to residents of Stanford Senior Village for recreation once a month.
“So what happens to grass greens is it gets really beaten up and the grass never gets the opportunity to grow back as a result of that, we have to change to artificial and we won’t have that problem,” said Trickett. “We have to sometimes restrict play to one of the rinks because it’s too worn out. Sometime we play typically play in one direction in the mornings and another direction in the evenings. We have to change it around due to damage to the greens.”
To gauge the difference between playing on grass green and an artificial surface, a dozen members of the club visited a lawn bowling facility in Surrey to test it out.
“The technology now is able to produce a carpet that is similar in speed to the current grass green,” said Trickett. “So it’s not much of a change in terms of how you have to deliver the bowl. But what does change is that on a grass surface there’s always little bumps here and there that sort of move the ball from one direction or the other or make it go straight. On an artificial green it really plays true.”
The club is aiming to have all the funding it needs for the project achieved by March next year and get things rolling by April 2020. The estimate club closure of about 12 weeks when all the work is being done.