The Oceanside Services Committee is not willing to clear financial hurdles to fund a rubberized running track in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area G director Lehann Wallace made a motion at the committee meeting on Sept. 17 that funding of $204,407 included in the 2020 financial plan be committed to an eight-lane track. The motion was withdrawn when members of the committee expressed significant opposition.
“I believe that the best project that this committee works on is when all this committee works on it together,” said Wallace. “I am not seeing that today.”
Parksville director and Mayor Ed Mayne, along with Area E and F directors Bob Rogers and Leanne Salter were not willing to support a track at this time.
Mayne pointed out that it’s going to cost more than $2 million to build the proposed eight-lane track at Ballenas Secondary. It’s an expenditure that would only benefit a small segment of the community. Aside from the school, he said, fewer than a hundred in the community.
“I have a real concern of what we’re doing here,” said Mayne. “And yeah, I know it’s gone on forever, if you ask me to vote on whether we should keep going forward with this or not, my vote is we terminate this discussion and put it out of its misery.”
Wallace explained to Mayne that her motion didn’t specifically mentioned Ballenas. It could be anywhere in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Salter cited the current poor and uncertain economy of the country due to COVID-19 as one of the reasons she opposed the motion. She also added she’s unwilling to put more tax burden on ratepayers in her riding to fund a track that is not a priority at this time. She acknowledged the funds were already earmarked for the track project but she doesn’t believe it’s going to be feasible to undertake in a year or so.
“I think maybe we’ve got our heads in the sand or maybe we’re not recognizing the realities that are coming at us here,” said Salter. “We’ve got a train coming and we need to be prepared for it. Setting this money aside for a track means we’re earmarking it for a track, that’s it. I am not prepared to do that. If something else comes along, that many people can enjoy in some other activity, I want to be able to say ‘let’s go, we’ve got this money here’.”
Rogers said there should be flexibility to allow the money to be invested in other projects more likely to acquire government grants and funding.
Committee chair and Qualicum Beach director Mayor Brian Wiese said that football, track and turf fields support the youth in the region. He pointed out that a lot of Parksville Qualicum Beach athletes are playing outside their communities due to lack of better sports facilities.
“Our kids in Oceanside are travelling all over the place to compete in sports when we have facilities here to make that happen,” said Wiese. “I don’t think a relatively small allocation of funds to a future track is a bad thing. I think we need to support our children, we need to support athletics and different things in Oceanside, which we haven’t been doing. And we need to get going on them.”
One of the sports clubs are doing that now is Mid Island Distance, which now holds training at the rubberized track at the Nanaimo Rotary Bowl. Recently, two of the club’s former members, Juliette Desvaux and Spencer Bradley of Ballenas were heavily pursued by recruiters from universities in Canada and the United States.
Meanwhile, School District 69 (Qualicum) is still hoping to get the Ballenas track upgrade going. It has already committed $200,000 and had been asking the RDN to contribute $500,000.
A fundraising initiative on CanadaHelps.org has been established online. The target is to raise $200,000 that will help land the project government funding and grants amounting to approximately $1.2.
School district superintendent Keven Elder said they still want to see the project go through. He said it’s tougher now due to the pandemic but they’re hoping that a major benefactor or donor will come forward.