The pitch battle over the possible addition of a second synthetic turf soccer field at Inter River Park played out in District of North Vancouver council chambers Monday.
Tens of thousands of district residents would make use of the field, argued Coun. Roger Bassam, who touted Inter River Park as the last, best option for all-year, all-weather tournament soccer fields.
“This is the last opportunity for us to build a facility which is pretty common in every other community in the Lower Mainland but does not exist in North Vancouver,” Bassam said.
The fact that 130 trees would need to be cut and cleared is reason enough to oppose the two-field option, countered Coun. Jim Hanson.
Adding a 70- by 110-metre field would “completely destroy the forest,” according to Hanson, who suggested only a greenbelt perimeter would remain.
The district can create new fields and buildings but not forest, Hanson said, suggesting the district consider another location for tournament fields.
There is no other location, Bassam responded, suggesting the turf fields could accommodate Lynnmour Elementary, Capilano University, and the North Vancouver Football Club.
“If we have to cut down a few trees to take passive parkland and turn it into active park space, I’m OK with that,” he said, noting the plethora of hiking trails nearby.
While the city would benefit from a tournament facility, there is also a great benefit from having urban forest “just steps from your home,” Coun. Mathew Bond said, recalling a childhood spent around forest. “If you have to walk 20 minutes you’re not going to do it,” he said.
Residents in the area already have to deal with businesses that attract a “huge amount of traffic,” according to Coun. Lisa Muri.
The new fields would likely generate 58 vehicle trips during peak hours on the weekends. The district would supply 112 parking spots for one field and 162 stalls if the two-field option is approved. Premier Street would no longer provide park access, instead being turned into a cul-de-sac.
One field is “sufficient,” Muri said.
While Coun. Robin Hicks said he supported the second field in principal, he acknowledged “mixed feelings.” He asked district staff about measures that could mitigate the effect of the fields on nearby residents.
In surveying council, Hicks noted three councillors were opposed, two were generally in favour, and Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn said he was keeping an “open mind” on the proposal. Mayor Richard Walton did not attend the meeting.
The total cost for both fields is estimated to be $10 million. A portion of the park was used as a landfill from 1956 to 1988.
Council is expected to make a final decision in March.