The Ballenas Secondary cinder track. (PQB News file photo)

The Ballenas Secondary cinder track. (PQB News file photo)

Parksville running coaches remain firmly behind Ballenas track upgrade project

Scaled-down plan estimated to cost $1.5M

Athletics coaches Kim and Randy Longmuir have been longtime proponents of the Ballenas Secondary track upgrade.

Both spearheaded the campaign to change the cinder track into a rubberized running surface a decade ago. They had worked tirelessly on it but due to lack of support they devoted more of their time to coaching.

The Longmuirs, however, have found renewed drive to help the project reach the finish line this time due to Qualicum School District 69’s huge commitment to get the dilapidated track improved. They are sharing their expertise and experience as members of the Oceanside Track Renewal Steering Committee, the group that is overseeing the project.

Kim said they like what they’re seeing now.

“Randy and I have been waving the track renewal flag for a very long time and feel confident that with this dedicated committee, the project will become a reality,” said Kim.

Despite not garnering the financial support it needs from the Regional District of Nanaimo, the school district has decided to forge ahead on its own.

RELATED: Parksville Qualicum Beach running track project loses traction at RDN committee level

The committee recently scaled back the project from eight lanes to six, to bring the cost down to approximately $1.5 million. The price tag for the eight-lane proposal was projected at more than $2 million.

The SD69 has committed $200,000 to the project. They are awaiting results of their applications for provincial and federal grants and plan to do more in the new year.

As well, they are seeking community partnerships and donations and plan to organize fundraisers. Qualicum Beach council passed a motion earlier this year to indicate that they’re prepared to provide financial support to the initiative.

Coun. Scott Harrison said he hopes they can set aside some of the share of the track funding the town would have contributed to the RDN had the Oceanside Services Committee endorsed the project. The RDN has already earmarked $204,407 in its 2020 budget but OSC directors refused to allocate the funds.

Kim said the goal is to make the Ballenas track safer so it can be used by all in the Parksville Qualicum Beach community. It will serve as a training facility and will not be for competition.

“As you can imagine, we were very upset and disappointed with (Parksville) mayor Mayne’s comments to the RDN, that the project should be ‘put out of its misery,’” said Kim Longmuir. “This was a man who sat at the committee table with us for almost a year, and spoke as if he fully supported the project. Mayor Mayne’s shortsightedness in thinking that the track would only be used for a small number of track and field athletes couldn’t be further from the committee’s idea that the track would be a community track used by residents to stay active and healthy.”

She believes a rubberized track will help people with mobility issues, those recovering from heart and stroke illnesses, Special Olympics and all school children.

“A huge appreciation goes out to School District 69, superintendent Dr. Keven Elder, Ballenas principal, Rudy Terpstra, and school board trustee, Elaine Young, for bringing us back together with renewed enthusiasm to keep the momentum going,” said Kim.“The idea of a multi-use sportsplex has been discussed by for many years and my thoughts are that this discussion will continue for many more years. In the interim, our community deserves a facility that will be safe for people to use.”

The Longmuirs are the coaches of Mid Island Distance running club. Due to the poor track conditions, they have refrained from using the Ballenas track at this time.

“There is too much risk for injury,” said Kim. “We currently train at Rathtrevor Park or on the Springwood trails. Unfortunately, there is a rental cost for the team to practice at the Rotary Bowl in Nanaimo, so we train there sparingly to be able to keep the cost and travel manageable for the athletes.”

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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