The Oceanside Track at Ballenas committee said it hopes to meet its fundraising goal by the end of the year and begin construction on a new running track next spring.
The six-lane rubberized track will cost an estimated $1.5 million and replace School District 69’s existing track, which is over 40 years old and in poor condition, according to the committee.
“I’ve spent countless hours training on the Ballenas track and I can tell you it is in shocking, terrible condition that’s only getting worse,” said Juliette Desvaux, a former Ballenas Secondary student.
The committee said in a press release it has received a pledge of $200,000 from the school district, in addition to a potential contribution of $250,000 from the City of Parksville. Pending approval from the Union of B.C. Municipalities $32,000 and $21,000 from Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) areas G and H, respectively, will be transferred to School District 69 upon confirmation of a joint usage agreement and confirmation of other funding sources.
It said it also expects a $250,000 matching grant from the federal government and money from the province, yet to be determined.
“Right now it’s actually technically unsafe to do the elementary school track meet. We’re putting kids in jeopardy by running on it,” said Rudy Terpstra, committee chair and principal of Ballenas Secondary School. He added COVID has put a temporary stop to running competitions anyway.
The committee said it hopes to raise $250,000 through public and corporate donations. It has plans for an awareness and fundraising campaign with a local grocery chain, in addition to two 50/50 draws with a local service club.
The group also hopes to raise money by holding a virtual running event where students, running clubs, businesses and community members can raise money through pledges.
The current track is the most used recreation facility in Oceanside — around 450 students run on it each year during the elementary school track meet, Terpstra said. Track teams from Ballenas Secondary and Kwalikum Secondary train on it. He said the committee believes a new track could benefit the whole area.
“It would bring young people, but also seniors together. It’s a place where not only elite athletes but athletes of all fitness levels and also all teams could use for cross-training,” said Desvaux. “It’s a place where walkers can socialize, but also a safe, level place for people with canes, wheelchairs and strollers.”
The committee recently provided an update to the RDN Oceanside Services Committee, but the issue was referred back to staff for more information. The committee originally asked for $500,000, but Michael Garland, fundraising chair, said it would welcome $250,000 from the RDN.
“We haven’t seen the final numbers on this. How much is it going to cost and what’s it going to cost at the end of the year on an annual, ongoing basis?” asked Director Ed Mayne.
Bob Rogers, Area E director, said questions about operating costs like lighting, washrooms and parking have not been answered and he could not offer money since funding from Area E’s communal fund is already committed.
The track will not be hosting provincial or national competitions and does not need additional parking. No lighting will be added to the track — the old one has functioned without it for decades, according to the committee’s release.
“We’ve had some resistance and I think a lot of the resistance is people are just unsure, but I think we’ve worked very hard to address and to make sure people understand this is not a pipe dream — this is a need in the community,” said Garland.