The City of Parksville has joined the effort aimed at upgrading the old running track at Ballenas Secondary School.
School District 69 took the lead on the project last fall after it failed to gain financial support from the Regional District of Nanaimo (in the amount of $500,000). Parksville director and mayor Ed Mayne indicated at the Oceanside Services Committee meeting on Sept. 17 that he opposed the expenditure for a proposed eight-lane track project, which had a projected cost of more than $2 million.
Mayne stated: “I know it has gone on forever. If you asked me to vote on whether we should keep going forward with this or not, my vote would be that we terminate this discussion, put this out of its misery.”
But on Dec.7, Coun. Doug O’Brien made a motion that $250,000 be allocated from the COVID-19 fund for the track renewal project, provided it meets the provincial grant eligibility. It passed unanimously.
O’Brien believes the track project may qualify as it relates to health and wellness. He also indicated the track steering committee has reduced the scale of the project to a six-lane, non-competitive training track that would cost approximately $1.5 million.
“The thing is that they’ve embarked on a new effort of themselves to be fundraising through various grants that are now being made available,” said O’Brien, who added that the track committee will seek the assistance of Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns and the new Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker.
“So they’ve got a new enthusiasm to getting as many grants as they can,” O’Brien said.
The chair of the track steering committee, Rudy Terpstra, said they are strongly motivated to get the project going.
“It’s a big game-changer for us,” said Terpstra. “When we regrouped last fall after the RDN decline to support the project we didn’t include Parksville in the steering committee. But Parksville, through Coun. Doug O’Brien, reached out to us and he followed it up with the motion.”
The committee, which consists of 16 members representing a variety of groups in the community, will soon launch a one-stop website soon as well has holding three major fundraising initiatives this spring. They include two 50/50 online draws and a virtual run-a-thon involving all the schools in the district.
Terpstra said the target is to raise $1.5 million. School District 69 has already committed $200,000 to the project. The committee, he said, still wants to have the RDN join the initiative.
“We are adamant, we are going to go forward,” said Terpstra, who added the chamber of commerce, doctors’ associations, senior groups such as PGOSA have come out to support the project. “Build it and the people will come. People already walk around that track almost 24/7 right now. We know that the community appreciates the fact that people use this facility and it’s not just about runners and athletes.”
Terpstra said they will feature on their website elite athletes that include Canadian and Olympian high jumper Michael Mason who have trained on the Ballenas cinder track.
“We have got a lot of people now supporting the track,” said Terpstra. “We’re selling it to the community that it’s something everyone can use. It’s going to be a great facility to have in the community.”