Thursday, February 29, 2024
February 29, 2024

Portlock Park plan halted

Regular users of Portlock Park are pressing Capital Regional District (CRD) staff to go back to the drawing board with master plan concepts for the park following last Thursday’s Salt Spring Local Community Commission (LCC) meeting. 

The LCC had received a staff report and recommendation to approve a concept that did not include an oval track, as currently exists, but a delegation of park users helped convince the LCC that more work and consultation needed to be done before a decision is made. 

“If the motion in front of you today is to approve the revised option one, we as a collective unified delegation are pleading to you to vote no,” said Janine Fernandes-Hayden, representing a collaborative group that formed earlier this fall and had provided the LCC with alternative ideas they say will meet diverse needs at a reconfigured park. “We would like the LCC to take into consideration these alternative options seriously and as seriously as we did . . . and to recognize that it is a viable option.”

Fernandes-Hayden and others believe it would be possible to have an oval track at the site along with a senior ball field, pickleball courts and soccer fields. They had provided CRD Parks and Rec manager Dan Ovington with four different drawings to consider. 

“While the four options submitted retained amenities preferred by each group, they require the removal of the parking lot and or admin/washroom building,” stated Ovington’s staff report, in explaining why they had not been considered viable. 

Group members were asked if they had done detailed on-site measurements to support their propositions, especially as it related to the parking issue.

“We didn’t because we felt this was a starting point to sit down and talk and negotiate further,” said Salt Spring Sneakers running club member Karen Clark. “We thought this was just the beginning of the conversation and we would be able to talk about it further.”

Commissioner Brian Webster said that having been to the park on the previous Saturday when the parking lot was “packed,” he couldn’t see reducing the amount of space for parking.

“Notwithstanding your observations on the weekend, that’s the only time the parking areas are anywhere near close [to being full],” said Salt Spring Sneakers member Eric Ellis. “The other five or six days of the week, that current assignment of parking is empty.”

Toby Horbas represents Salt Spring Island Minor Baseball. He said after the meeting that his group is “committed to a collaborative approach with the other Portlock Park stakeholders in an effort to reach a master plan that encompasses everyone’s needs. With limited recreational lands to fit the facilities required by many, it is of the utmost importance we come together as a community. The master plan is a long-term vision, therefore there is no reason to push one through that divides our collective.”

Salt Spring Pickleball Association spokesperson Shirley Ireland said her group feels the Portlock master plan “must be done in conjunction with a comprehensive plan for the best use of all of the recreational lands on the island and one that efficiently and most cost effectively meets the current and future needs of all user groups.” 

Webster also made the case for looking at all of the island’s recreational sites.

“I think part of the problem is we look at Portlock and people can start freaking out because of what’s in or not in,” said Webster, adding that it’s important to look at present and future amenities at all sites so that an important piece is not missed. 

“We are going to reach a resolution here,” he said. “And that may or may not be something that ultimately makes everybody happy. But we definitely shouldn’t be doing that unless and until we’re fully informed.”

The LCC moved to request a revised staff report for the next meeting, which takes place on Thursday, Dec. 7. 

Ovington said he could come back with a recommendation that included an outline of some options for proceeding, but would not have time to do further consultation himself or create a document showing all of the island’s fields and amenities by that time. 

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