SD46 board hears pitch for better playing fields

A group lobbying for local governments to improve playing and sports fields on the Sunshine Coast made their appeal to the School District No. 46 (SD46) Board of Education on Nov. 13.

“What we are hoping for … is to get the fields to be back to a standard that is considered safe for the kids to play on,” said Better Fields Committee member Grant Marshall at the board meeting.

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Another member, Warren Brander, was more blunt: “I’ve coached and played soccer all over the Lower Mainland and I do feel like we have some of the worst fields, here on the Coast, that I’ve ever seen,” he told trustees, adding, “After three weeks of play, the fields are saturated, damp, you can’t play on them… I feel like it’s been neglected, it’s been seriously neglected on the Coast.”

Brander also raised safety concerns, mentioning a student from Cedar Grove Elementary School who had broken her ankle last year in “a fairly deep divot.”

The group asked trustees to support their efforts to remediate the field behind Elphinstone Secondary and to get lights installed on the field so that it can be used after school hours as a community recreation hub.

To help with their case, they commissioned a fertilizer company to assist with sampling the Elphinstone field. The company recommended updating its “turfgrass programs” and installing sprinkler heads.

The group also asked whether bringing in external funding could be considered as an option, and how the joint use agreement between SD46 and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) could be used to maintain the fields.

Secretary-treasurer Nicholas Weswick said the agreement is primarily focused on shared access to facilities, rather than jointly maintaining assets, but that “there is a component that allows for taxation revenue to drive improvements through the SCRD to school district facilities.”

Marshall said when he spoke to the SCRD, they told him, “if asked, they would be happy to reinvest in the school district fields with some maintenance money as well.”

After more discussion, the board voted unanimously for the conversation to continue at a future operations committee.

During the meeting, trustee Samantha Haines also raised concern that the group relied on a fertilizer company for advice. “I think we need more information than what’s coming from a salesman,” she said, and suggested the SCRD could also provide expertise on field maintenance since they employ a turfgrass expert.

She made a motion for SD46 to “seek consultation from sports turf experts on low-cost, environmental-friendly initiatives for turf maintenance.”

After further discussion, trustees voted in favour of Haines’ motion, with trustee Amanda Amaral opposed.

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