The proposed expansion of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre pool is being given top priority by the new Oceanside Services Committee.
The new group held its inaugural meeting at the Town of Qualicum Beach council chambers on Thursday, May 16. It was chaired by Electoral Area G (Dashwood, Englishman River, French Creek) director Clarke Gourlay.
In a report to the committee, manager of recreation services Dean Banman stated that based on current needs and from assessments conducted, creating additional space at the Ravensong pool is the top priority for the area.
The committee voted to have a concept design and project planning, community review, cost estimation and funding sources to expand the pool to be completed and given priority this year. Gourlay, Qualicum Beach director and mayor Brian Wiese, and Electoral Area H (Shaw Hill, Deep Bay, Bowser) director Stuart McLean voted in favour of the motion. Parksville directors Ed Mayne and Adam Fras were opposed.
Fras said the pool expansion is a short-term solution. He indicated it would not meet the growing needs of the region. A 25-metre tank upgrade, he pointed out, will only serve groups such as the aquafit class and that there would not be enough space for young children and after-school programs.
“We should be looking down the road, otherwise we will find ourselves in the same position in another five to 10 years,” said Fras, who believes that there is a demand for a 50-metre tank.
Fras said residents in Parksville he talked to leading up to last fall’s election favoured a swimming pool being built in the city, which he considers a “massive public input,” not just coming from user-groups of Ravensong.
“I would like to see a longer solution and that would include a different geographical area and a larger service,” said Fras, who, as a frequent swimmer at Ravensong, has not encountered overcrowding issues which he believes only happens during the aquafit class. “I think that’s what we’re solving the issue for (aquafit group) but not for all of the region.”
Wiese said the need to upgrade the pool has been discussed at length over the years. He pointed out the they’ve been waiting for the upgrades to happen for a long time.
Gourlay said there has been a clear research done and an agreement from the previous RDN board to move ahead. He considers this to be the most cost-effective way of expanding, running and meeting the region’s current needs.
“We have a budget in place to do this part of the study,” said Gourlay. “I look forward to further work in Parksville for recreation facilities that may also include a pool. Perhaps if the pressure is relieved in Qualicum Beach that recreation facility could begin in another area.”
RDN staff also proposed to start in 2020 a concept design plan for a centralized indoor and outdoor sport and recreation complex for Oceanside. McLean made an amendment to the motion to include land acquisition strategy to the concept plan.
McLean’s motion was defeated with Mayne, Wiese and Fras opposing. Staff’s recommendation also did not pass as it was voted down by Mayne, Weise and Bob Rogers.
The major hurdle to the plan was the City of Parksville’s sports and recreation initiatives.
“Parksville is currently just at the very edge of beginning to look at whether it makes sense feasibly for us to do our own sportsplex or indoor swimming pool combined,” Mayne explained. “So without knowing those answers, there’s no way that I want to start spending the money, the region’s money, the citizens’ money, on developing plans that may or may not be required in the long run. So I’d like to suggest that we hold off on this whole situation. I know that’s going to make a couple of people very unhappy in the audience but I’m sorry for that. But we were elected on the premise of doing a sportsplex and doing a swimming pool.”
Mayne said it doesn’t make any sense for the region to put staff time and resources on a planning process that may or may not take effect later.
Rogers supported Mayne. He said his decision might not be comfortable with a lot of people but explained they were elected to govern for the wise expenditure of the RDN’s resources. He feels it would be a “poor investment” of RDN dollars if Parksville is not on board.
“I can’t support this knowing that the mayor of Parksville and director of the RDN has indicated the largest contributor from a tax dollars in the Oceanside area for this facilities is not certain about how they want to proceed within a similar complex,” said Rogers.
The proposed creation of a rubberized track at Ballenas Secondary was not discussed nor included in the agenda.