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Wanted: more community space in Sooke

Growth in Sooke heightens need for more community space
The Sooke Community Hall has hosted large events in the community for many years, including the Sooke Fall Fair. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

It’s not a stretch to say that as Sooke’s population expands, the need for more community space grows.

The recent decision by the Sooke Lion’s Club to pause plans for a community centre and public amenities at John Phillips Memorial Park has only sharpened the focus on how to address the growing need for more community space.

In addition to acknowledging that Sooke residents, community groups, and local governments have long recognized the need for additional community space, Coun. Bateman said that they have also recognized that existing facilities could be enhanced and upgraded through creativity, collaboration, and funding.

RELATED: Lions’ proposal for John Phillips Memorial Park on hold

“There is energy and drive in the community to create new spaces,” Bateman said. “The new Vancouver Island Regional Library and its meeting room is a shining example of that.”

“An exciting development this year is the launch 0f the Villager initiative,” he said.

The initiative, led by Sooke School District, collaborates with United Way Southern Vancouver Island and more than 40 organizations, including the District of Sooke and SEAPARC Leisure Centre. The goal is to better use existing spaces, including schools.

“I understand the Sooke Community Association has plans and perhaps even funding to renovate the Sooke Community Hall,” Bateman said. “The Royal Canadian Legion is better positioned to use its second floor for events and gatherings.”

Sooke Region Community Health Network and the District of Sooke continue to collaborate on a long-term plan to develop The Gathering Place as an inter-generational centre on land adjacent to the library. However, significantly more funding is required for the project.

“The mantra for this and all things Sooke as formulated generations ago and still applicable today is planning, process, patience, and persistence,” Bateman said.

Sooke Lions president Steve Lawrence agreed there’s no doubt that Sooke needs more community space.

“The community hall can host larger events, but it doesn’t provide a venue for smaller events,” he said. “We thought our proposal (for a community centre and public amenities) at John Phillips Memorial Park would provide that.”

The Lions club said its decision to pause its proposal, for now, is due to a lack of support from council and a divided community.

“The district needs to figure out if most people are in favour of John Phillips being an active park with community amenities,” Lawrence said. “The Lions haven’t met yet to discuss the next steps for us. From our perspective, we’ll discuss a bunch of options.”

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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