Chronic bad drainage causing the fields at Shirley Macey Park to be deemed at times unplayable could be addressed after Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors requested staff to provide analysis on how to fix the problem in time for this year’s budget deliberations.
Directors voted for staff to look at updated cost estimates and project scope for effectively rebuilding the fields, as laid out in a handful of options contained in a consultant report from 2007. Area D alternate director Tim Howard made the resolution.
“Shirley Macey was intended to be the crown jewel of playing fields of the SCRD field inventory. It was not engineered properly, it was not built properly and it has therefore never achieved that status. It requires significant investment and intervention to get it up to its intended level of use,” said Howard at the Oct. 10 SCRD board meeting. “It is important that we take the concrete steps towards assessing the options for doing so and that we’re not deferring.”
The motion came in response to a delegation from the Better Fields Committee. Representatives Dave Robens and Grant Marshall made their case for getting the ball rolling on field improvements through a letter and eight recommendations, which they presented to the board. Howard was included as a signatory on the letter and later clarified to Coast Reporter that while “not a formal member,” he had been invited to a meeting “to hear the concerns and discuss how the group could get a delegation before the board.”
Robens and Marshall pointed out that drainage problems were identified at Shirley Macey Park more than a decade ago.
In 2007, engineering consultants Binnie and Associates submitted a report to the SCRD outlining options for Shirley Macey playing field remediation.
A 2015 SCRD staff report put the cost of constructing engineered sand and turf fields at $750,000 and the 2007 Binnie report put the range of remediation costs between $110,000 and $540,000, which would likely be higher with updated pricing.
In 2016 Marshall raised the fields problem to the SCRD board and Gibsons council but since then no remediation work has been done to fix Shirley Macey or other problem fields, according to Marshall. Instead, the conditions of the fields have deteriorated.
During the delegation Robens identified a lack of funding and “a lack of intergovernmental cooperation to share equipment and knowledge” as barriers to improving the fields on the Sunshine Coast – including at Shirley Macey.
“Over the past two decades, the sports fields on the Sunshine Coast have worsened. The result of our fields being deemed below minimum league standards, will be our kids needing to play all their games off Coast every weekend – no more home games – and all due to a lack of safe adequate fields. And this is a serious concern right now,” Robens told the board.
The delegation also asked the board to update its strategic plan, which was slated to be adopted later at the meeting, to prioritize the issue.
Several of the eight recommendations focused on intergovernmental collaboration, including establishing an “ad-hoc committee” comprising field maintenance staff from local governments and the school district and representatives from user groups to meet regularly, and for local governments and the school district to share the costs of maintenance.
Since Shirley Macey Park requires substantial fixes, the delegation also suggested that it be closed and maintenance work started on the playing field at Cliff Gilker Park, which also faces drainage problems.
An SCRD staff report from 2015 noted that the playing field at Cliff Gilker would need to be redone “and properly engineered” in three to five years.
Staff are expected to come back with analysis of the options contained in the 2007 report in time for Round 1 of budget deliberations, as well as the eight recommendations submitted by the Better Fields Committee. Later in the meeting, staff confirmed that the strategic plan outlines asset management as a priority and that fields maintenance would be folded into that.
During the discussion, Elphinstone director Donna McMahon asked whether it would be possible to include the Shirley Macey fix as part of a “regional field strategy.”
“I don’t want to start making big decisions to do a big capital investment in one field without looking at the bigger picture,” she said.
Gibsons director Bill Beamish replied that the playing fields at Shirley Macey Park are an “outstanding issue,” given that the problems were identified as far back as 2007.
“We need to actually take some of the information that was developed in 2007 and 2014 and move it forward,” he said, adding that he was also in favour of setting up an intergovernmental committee.
Fields were also raised as an issue at an Oct. 15 Gibsons council meeting, when manager of maintenance and operations Daniel Tardif said his staff has been meeting with representative from the sports associations using Brothers Park as well as his counterparts at the SCRD and District of Sechelt.
“The stakeholder groups are very interested in us upgrading the level of those fields, which is not as high as you can find in the city or even some other playgrounds on the Coast,” Tardif said.
“It is kind of embarrassing," added Coun. Stafford Lumley, who said he’s been taking heat over the state of the Brothers Park fields since he was first elected.
Tardif said the department has been in contact with experts to prepare, and cost, a maintenance plan for the fields and he expects to have a report for council soon.
In the meantime the Town has started work on repairs to the sprinkler system.
– With files from Sean Eckford