Coun. Tim McGonigle. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan council eyes next phases of Centennial Park project

The town has budgeted about $100,000 for work there

Lake Cowichan council will make its own decision on what needs to be done at Centennial Park.

That was the clear message to the community Tuesday, May 21 as councillors considered how to respond to two wildly differing presentations on conditions at the new ballfields there. Wayne Rees and Rocky Wise had called for big changes at the ballfields, claiming that the present set-up there is not suitable for baseball. A few weeks later Kelly Bergstrom, president of Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball, said that the field is being successfully used by both slo pitch and baseball players alike.

But, after the dust settled, it was clear that the town has budgeted about $100,000 for work there, and Bergstrom asked that some of that cash be used on improving the parking lot.

“Obviously we’d like to see it directed to the right areas. We wouldn’t want to abuse that money but I would sure like to see the parking lot cleaned up as it’s pretty rough. Especially behind the Apollos Field. There are ruts, there’s safety issues there. Especially with Lake Days coming up. We are hosting games then. I just got notified that the Cuban men’s team are coming for a game against the Chemainus Brewers.

“I’d like to have a slo pitch game going on at the same time. So that park is going to be used that weekend. A little TLC would be much appreciated, especially behind the Apollos Field. There are a lot of ruts,” Bergstrom said.

Town CAO, Joe Fernandez, at council’s request, had prepared a report on Phase Two of Centennial Park, after council had heard the two delegations.

Coun. Tim McGonigle said that he and his colleagues could add some extensive discussion about the park to the list of things to do at an upcoming strategy session.

“I think this is a great topic for our strategic plan. Where are our priorities looking forward as a council for the next four years, five years, 10 years?”

He said it’s also time “to prioritize some projects that we’ve started but not completed. I think that’s imperative. We’ve completed our budget discussions for this year and are going to look at our strategic plan…We all want to see Centennial Park finished but when you look at the bottom line and it’s $1.08 million, and we’ve $100,000 within the budget, that’s not very substantive to do much work in there. You’re not going to complete the tennis court, you may do some partial paving, and gravelling for parking.

“If you look at the utilization of that currently there are a number of slo pitch teams that are utilizing that, the rally cap kids — which are five, six, and seven [years old] — are using that for practice. It is being used in its current condition. It’s not substandard, it is workable as it is but it would be nice to have it completed.”

He said that he’d like to see the town continue to look for grant opportunities “and perhaps enhance that with some funding within our budget process.”

Coun. Kristine Sandhu agreed that “planning sessions with the managers of our departments” are a good idea.

Learning — over a session of a couple of hours or so — what’s going on in each of those bailiwicks is important, she said.

“We’ve so much stuff coming in from outside…we need to get to the core of what’s running Lake Cowichan. To be able to have discussion at this table, we have to have information…As much as we can we do our own research but by July we really need to commit a day to a session with our staff.”

Vomacka said, “we don’t have the club house, the bleachers, the washrooms. Is this not in Phase Two? If we have the baseball fields there, we should be looking at completing what we need for baseball.”

Fernandez said that when the original concept was discussed, “the club house was not even thought of.”

Mayor Rod Peters asked, “What about the washrooms. They’re pretty shabby.”

Fernandez replied, “The washrooms that are there are supposed to be remodeled.”

Vomacka said that having an original concept was okay, but “shouldn’t we be making changes that we want to see [in that plan] before going for more grant funding because we have different ideas of what needs to be there.”

Fernandez said that the strategic session in July would be a great time to talk about that.

Dalton Smith, the Cowichan Lake Education Centre manager, said that getting grant money for a summer employment project would mean that work on the washrooms could start as soon as October, and, now the capital budget is approved, it’s possible to make applications for such a grant.

Vomacka said she was happy that it appeared that council was not being hampered by the original concept plan, and McGonigle agreed.

“We can move anything from Phase Three into Phase Two if we wish. We can do additions that aren’t in the conceptual drawing that we made. If a club house was on the list of things, or a storage shed at least…we could most certainly add that to either phase.”

Fernandez pointed out that when the original drawings were made in 2008, “the cost was in excess of $3 million. We had to slim it down for Phase One…it didn’t make sense to look at the entire thing all at once.”

McGonigle said delegations have already come forward to talk about the park.

“I myself welcome people to come forward and express their concerns about the conceputal plan,” he said, adding council would then be looking at making its decisions based on what the community wants. “I don’t see why anything can’t be discussed. There were walking trails proposed at one time, and seniors’ exercise equipment. The addition of a club house or storage area could most certainly be added, in my opinion.”

Vomacka said that some of the ideas from the old plan for the big park really do need looking at again.

“Even the seniors’ exercise equipment. I had a lady come and talk to me that she didn’t think Centennial Park was a good place for exercise equipment for seniors because of the location. It should be closer to the centre of town. That’s why we need to look at that concept again.”

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