Recent Items – 2002
April 3, 2002, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
A public reservation bylaw that preserves Dawson Creeks last untouched forest as a nature park passed through three readings at Monday’s city council meeting, but not before some controversy erupted.
Coun. Paul Gevatkoff made it clear that he was against the bylaw because it will exclude development of a three-field soccer park on the land located in the 1900 block of 102nd Avenue.
Gevatkoff read out a prepared speech in which he noted that in December council had given the South Peace Soccer Society approval in principal to develop a plan for such a facility at that location.
“The soccer society worked diligently, as volunteers usually do, and came up with a business plan and a design for the facility,” Gevatkoff said. “However, when they returned to council to present their work, they were turned down. The approval in principal meant nothing.”
Gevatkoff noted that in Prince George, soccer has grown from 800 participants in 1993 to over 3,000 this year and that much of the growth is due to expansion of fields in that city. He said that Prince George is recognized as a leader in economic development and that sports-tourism plays an important role.
“The tourists that come to their city and stay an extra day to play or watch soccer are significant to their economy,” he said, adding that an $11 million indoor soccer facility is now being contemplated for the Spruce City.
“Has our council and our economic development strategy missed the boat?” he said, noting that other sports receive plenty of support from the city. “Our youth deserve these activities and soccer is one of these,” he said.
While the bylaw excludes development of a soccer park at that location, Gevatkoff said that no one has yet come forward with a feasible alternative. “So far, there has only been Ôgo somewhere else to play, not here,’” he said.
A move to preserve the land, about 45 acres (70 acres) gained major momentum in February when well-known environmental advocate Don Pettit approached city council with the proposal. The Chamberlain Ecological Heritage Park Coalition was soon formed, and following a public consultation meeting in March, council generally expressed support for a nature park.
Gevatkoff finished by urging council to reject the bylaw and “sincerely investigate the potential locations for a soccer park before excluding it from this site.”
Coun. Bob Gibbs also voted against the bylaw for a similar reason. Gibbs said he wasn’t against turning the land into a nature park, but not before a credible home can be found for the soccer park.
But the rest of council voted in favour of the bylaw which would exclude the development of active recreational facilities such as soccer fields and baseball diamonds, but would allow for trails, associated parking and tourist-related enhancements to support public use of the nature park.
In response to Gevatkoff, Coun. Calvin Kruk pointed to measures also taken a Monday’s meeting to form a recreation advisory committee that would help find a new home for a soccer park.
The city will now contract various groups and advertise for those interested in participating on such a committee, which could consist from seven to 15 members.
Meanwhile, council also voted unanimously in favour of directing staff to draft a report on possible work that could improve the existing stock of soccer fields for the coming season.