Recent Items – 2002
March 5, 2002, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
The debate over whether or not to allow a soccer park in the last untouched forest within city limits drew about 75 people to a public meeting on Monday night.
But despite the interest and although Mayor Wayne Dahlen emphasized that the meeting’s purpose was to find a solution to the problem, little if any headway was made to resolving the issue.
The South Peace Junior Soccer Society wants to develop a three-pitch soccer park with enough space for change rooms, a concession, meeting area, equipment storage and a 1.25-hectare (two-acre) parking area for $227,890. And they remained adamant that the city-owned land at the west end of 102nd Avenue is the best spot for the facility.
In a presentation, Society member Dale Keegstra said the location meets all the requirements in terms of accessibility, safety, orientation of the fields and protection from the wind. It was also added that the Society had checked out at least six other spots before settling on the proposed location.
Soccer park advocates also stressed that the facility will cover only about 15 per cent of the 45 hectare (70 acre) site. But others say that allowing the park to be constructed will only open the door to further development of an area that is already slated for a residential subdivision under the city’s official community plan.
“I’m afraid that the biggest problem with losing greenspace is well-intentioned, incremental development,” said Don Pettit, a well-known local environmentalist who first brought the issue to council’s attention. “That is why it is the last undisturbed greenspace within city limits.”
Instead, Pettit and other members of the Chamberlain Ecological Heritage Heritage Park Coalition say the land should be set aside as a nature park, and stressed the value of the park as a draw for tourists. Pettit noted that many B.C. communities have developed just such parks in bids to attract tourists.
Concern that further residential development alongside Dawson Creek will create further flooding problems downstream was also raised by Allen Eagle. He contended that there should be at least 30 and 50 metres (100 to 150 feet) of untouched space on either side of the creek. In response, Society president Frank McAllister said that the soccer park would be at least 100 metres away from the creek.
Soccer parent Ian Marchak also spoke in favour of a nature park, noting that as much as his two boys like soccer, they also enjoy the “secret trails” they’ve developed in the area.
“I know this is sort of an emotional appeal, but it’s a jewel the way we have it now,” Marchak said.
But another soccer parent, Pat Ballard, said there’s room for both a nature park and soccer fields at that location.
“Should we be supporting tourists, or should we be supporting tourists in our local community,” she said.
Homeowners who live near the forest expressed concerns about increased traffic in the area. The question of whether or not the money that would be spent on the park would be better used to upgrade the existing fields.
Others, however, said that the park makes tournaments possible, making life easier for visiting teams and for local parents and players alike.
In all about a dozen speakers took to the microphone over the two-hour meeting. Contrary to what was reported in the Friday Peace River Block Daily News the meeting was not an official public hearing but rather a public consultation.
Dahlen said that council will likely decide at the Monday, March 18 regular meeting whether or not to proceed with the public hearing process regarding the soccer park. A bylaw allowing the park passed two readings at the February 18 meeting.