Salt Spring’s park planners are rolling out conceptual designs for the future of Portlock Park — and once again, it’s time for the community to weigh in.
Portlock Park’s Master Plan process continues this summer, with a robust public engagement effort centred on three designs, incorporating what planners have heard islanders want most — including a new senior ball field.
An online community survey is now open at this link, or by clicking on the “Take Survey” button for “Community Survey 2” at the website getinvolved.crd.bc.ca/portlock-park.
According to PARC staff — still “PARC,” avoiding logo design and printing costs by replacing the Parks and Recreation Commission name with “Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture” — the first round of community consultation involved stakeholder and staff workshops, as well as a community survey that garnered more than 900 responses.
Input from those efforts, alongside additional guidance from the former parks commission, went to the architects, who then came back with three conceptual designs. The next step is to see what the community thinks — through a new survey, according to PARC manager Dan Ovington, who presented the broad strokes of the three designs to Salt Spring’s Local Community Commission (LCC) Tuesday, July 18.
“We’ll take kind of the best we hear on each of the designs — including the negative things we hear, try to mitigate those concerns — compiling that all into one,” said Ovington. “That final draft master plan will then come back to the LCC for final approval.”
The master plan will be a roadmap to help guide PARC in spending its budget, setting priorities as infrastructure begins to need replacement; in addition, the highly structured approach will set up PARC for grant funding, much as the Centennial Park master plan did in 2016 and the Rainbow Recreation Centre master plan did last year.
In the outreach thus far, Ovington said, staff noticed there was some misunderstanding from the public about what a “senior ball field” even was, much less whether Portlock Park needed one. A senior ball field isn’t for adults, he said, but rather for island kids over a certain age who want to continue in these sports.
“Right now, youth over the age of 12 wanting to play ball have to go off-island,” said Ovington. “It’s been a longstanding goal to try to acquire a larger parcel of land to develop additional playing fields, and specifically a senior ball field. But after several failed attempts, it was decided we needed to look at our existing assets and properties.”
The more “holistic” approach staff and former commissioners came up with was for PARC to work with Salt Spring’s schools, helping operate some of their fields to fulfill the more “junior” needs — re-locating, for example, the smaller ball field from Portlock Park to Fernwood Elementary School, perhaps building a second one there — and re-tooling Portlock to include a senior-sized field. PARC is also working on upgrading the “hydro field” at Rainbow and Jackson for ball field sports.
While the goal has been to try to increase the availability of “green fields” — no artificial turf is contemplated, Ovington said — the wide range of stakeholders’ interests prompted PARC to request that one of the architect’s designs not include a senior ball field at all.
“Obviously there are people that use Portlock Park and enjoy it just the way it is,” said Ovington, adding that PARC “heard a lot” from advocates for dedicated tennis and pickleball courts within the PARC system, as well as the numerous users of the track who wanted to ensure its future. Given limited space across all properties — and that the Rainbow Recreation Centre is the only property with zoning that included indoor recreation — staff said it made the most sense for larger fields to be focused at Portlock.
Every option includes pickleball, and there are multiple re-imaginings of the existing surfaced track — including one that runs around the perimeter of the park; Ovington said staff were exploring the right surface for a new track, to allow the most year-round use for runners and walkers.
“Even the ‘worst’ of the options is so much better than where we are today,” said commissioner Brian Webster. “I don’t see anything in these three options that I would suggest we change before it goes on for public input.”
In addition to the inevitable online surveys, Ovington said the three conceptual designs will be printed out in large format and put on display in the lobby of the Rainbow Recreation Centre for the public to get a close look. Hard copies of the survey will also be available there and at the library, for pick-up and drop-off.