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Support from politicians gives proponents of Ballenas track upgrade confidence

More than $600,000 needed to advance project
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The drive to replace the track at Ballenas Secondary to an year-round rubberized surface has gained momentum due to support from newly elected politicial candidates. (PQB News file photo)

The proponents behind the Ballenas Secondary track upgrade are feeling more confident the project will move forward with the support of newly elected officials across Parksville Qualicum Beach.

The Oceanside Community Track Steering Committee needs to raise $650,000 more for the $1.5-million project that would turn the current dilapidated cinder track at Ballenas Secondary into a year-round sports facility. The plan is to build a six-lane, rubberized training track.

The committee indicated elected officials agree the Ballenas track is in badly need of an upgrade.

Newly elected Parksville mayor Doug O’Brien is a supporter of the track upgrade initiative and has been an active member of the Oceanside Track Steering Committee for a number of years.

“The existing track is a disgrace to all of Oceanside,” said O’Brien, who vowed to push for final funding by engaging with organizations. “I will apply more pressure to the provincial government, Ministry of Education, etc. to step up to the bar and commit to supplying the outstanding balance amount to complete this project.”

The six elected officials in the new Parksville council all agreed that final funding for the track is urgent and essential so construction can get underway.

Among them is avid runner Mary Beil, who had the opportunity to run the current track during a fundraising events she attended last summer. She intends to look at the city’s budget to find additional funds for the project as well as explore other sources of funding provincially or federally including private grant providers.

“A new track should benefit students and also the larger community,” said Beil. “The existing track is in abominable shape.”

Re-elected Coun. Adam Fras also had the opportunity to walk the current track and indicated his goal to make it a priority for his new term.

READ MORE: ‘Community Love Run’ raises $20,000 for Parksville track upgrade project

“I will continue to build upon the efforts and commitments the City of Parksville has contributed to bringing us closer to the goal of getting us a proper track where athletes can excel and everyone in our community can enjoy.”

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek confirmed his backing for the new track.

“You can count on me for support,” said Westbroek.

All Qualicum Beach councillors also want to see the track built. Re-elected Coun. Anne Skipsey said she will continue to support the project.

“Many of our residents will use and benefit from this facility,” said Skipsey. “We need to roll up our sleeves, get creative and find ways to raise more funds.”

As an active member of the Oceanside Track Steering Committee, re-elected Coun. Scott Harrison plans to be part of the driving force to make this project a reality.

“With a large number of retirees, it should be remembered that the track will not only serve young students, but disproportionately it will offer an opportunity for outdoor exercise on a surface amenable to the needs of seniors and citizens with mobility issues,” said Harrison, adding “this is a long overdue amenity for our region, and we need to continue to work together to finish the job.”

The new track already has a shared use agreement between Qualicum School District 69 and the Regional District of Nanaimo. Once built, it will be available for use by schools, community organisations such as Parkinson’s Support Group, health groups, physio rehab, sports organizations such as the Special Olympics, Oceanside Track and Field and ORCA, local athletes and the general public.

— NEWS Staff

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