Salt Spring’s Parks and Recreation Commission gave some shape to the Rainbow Road site master plan with decisions made at its meeting last week.
Results of a fall public survey that attracted a high rate of interest with 664 complete and 300 incomplete responses were presented by parks and recreation manager Dan Ovington, who told commission members the plan now was to create three conceptual designs for further public and stakeholder response.
When asked what they would like to see in any future expansion of facilities at the Rainbow Road site, survey respondents selected the following top 10 options:
1. Multi-purpose sports facility (gym)
2. Ice arena
4. Leisure / therapy pool
5. Lazy river
6. Steam room
7. Climbing wall
9. Water slide
10. Covered multi-sport court
Commission members talked about several possibilities and passed a motion that would direct including a leisure pool in a revised master plan, but stressed that did not mean the commission necessarily planned to advance that project.
“I am not advocating for this as something that needs to happen today,” said commission member Brian Webster in making the motion.
But it was noted that developing a business case for a leisure/therapy pool as well as a fitness facility at the Rainbow Road site is included in PARC’s 10-year strategic plan that was adopted in June of 2019.
Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman also pointed out that PARC has $8 million earmarked in its five-year capital plan for a pool expansion.
“I think there might be a more higher priority for the community than a leisure pool . . . But I don’t oppose it being part of the capital plan or [Webster’s] motion that it should be included in the plans for Rainbow Road.”
Commission member Colin Walde put forth an argument to include a covered multi-sport court on the property so that inclement weather doesn’t halt practice times for youth soccer players.
Walde, a soccer coach, said between 300 and 350 players need a covered place to practice during winter months when fields become unusable due to wet weather and with school gym space at a premium or unavailable as it is now due to school board policy around COVID.
“We are lucky if we can get 45 minutes per team per week,” he said.
Sean Norgard, another commission member, asked if an ice rink would be incorporated in any site plan.
Webster shared that in-depth discussions about an arena had occurred when the last strategic plan was being developed.
“It was just not financially viable, so the 2007 strategic plan simply staked out that position that it was not appropriate for Salt Spring Island,” said Webster.
Commissioner John Gauld raised the possibility of the tennis and pickleball courts now at Portlock Park being relocated to Rainbow Road, which could free up space to add baseball fields at Portlock. The commission has not been able to secure land on Salt Spring for that purpose despite sincere efforts to do so for more than 10 years.
The Rainbow Road recreation site property is 3.16 hectares (7.82 acres) in size, with most of the area currently undeveloped.
Commissioners and staff also spent quite a bit of time at their Nov. 16 meeting discussing where a new parks and rec maintenance yard should be located. While current department staff stated they preferred the current spot on a Kanaka Road lot owned by the CRD, the commission decided putting the facility on part of the connecting Rainbow Road property was more viable. One of a few reasons cited was that a rezoning from the Islands Trust would not be needed if the Rainbow site is chosen.
“It seems selling Kanaka Road would make sense,” suggested Holman. “It would give the commission some additional funds for its parkland acquisition fund.”