The new Handsworth Secondary will have enough room for a tournament-sized field and a six-lane track – but whether it will have either remains a matter for debate.
District of North Vancouver council voted unanimously April 15 to delay issuing a development permit for Handsworth’s $62-million rebuild pending neighbourhood consultation on traffic and parking.
Nearby roads are narrow and frequently congested, noted Coun. Lisa Muri, who pushed for the deferral.
“There’s a bunch of ducks that are not in a row,” she said, discussing the extra traffic that could accompany a new artificial turf field.
The school’s current track and field are set to be decommissioned once construction starts on the new Handsworth this fall. After the school is built, the 57-year-old building is set to be demolished and replaced with a grass field in 2022.
There is no money in either the municipality’s nor the school district’s budget for a replacement of the school’s six-lane track, much to the consternation of several runners and residents.
A steadily increasing number of students have been taking part in track and field over the past few years, according to Handsworth cross-country coach Ryne Melcher.
“Having nothing on the North Shore . . . will be a huge blow to those numbers,” he said.
The North Shore’s other running tracks range from four-lane synthetic at Fen Burdett Park to six-lane asphalt at Windsor and Sutherland secondary schools. The lack of a decent synthetic track may force student runners and their parents to face the “huge headache” of afternoon traffic to compete, Melcher said.
Besides serving students across the North Shore, the Handsworth track is also a boon for seniors out for a stroll, neighbours looking to get fit and Special Olympics athletes who train at the school, Melcher added.
His concerns were echoed by Kitty Castle, who said the situation should have been a priority for district staff “long before now.”
“By building over this track the school district is saving on construction costs at our expense with no recompense for the community,” she said.
Coun. Jordan Back emphasized the facility’s value. The cost of a new track, which is estimated at between $2.5 and $3 million, is “a pretty small percentage” of the project’s budget, he said. “I would really hate to lose this facility in the district so I support anything that we can do to try and keep this on the table.”
While the school district is open to discussion, they “will require a financial partnership with the district and community sports users” in order to facilitated a lit artificial turf field and track at Handsworth, according to a district staff report.
“I don’t know what that partnership’s going to look like but let’s have a talk about it,” Muri said.
The district’s five-year budget has earmarked $3.5 million for an artificial turf field at Argyle Secondary and $6.2 million for an artificial turf field at Inter River Park. The district previously considered eight-lane running tracks at Parkgate and Inter River but scuttled both plans due to the number of trees that would have to be chopped.
The new Handsworth Secondary is slated to welcome 1,400 students. The site is also set to include 120 parking spots – 42 fewer than would ordinarily be required.
Handsworth’s replacement has “triggered the need” for the Capilano Suspension Bridge to consider alternate parking after years of using the school’s lot for overflow parking during the busy summer months, Muri noted.
Muri also questioned the need for a drop-off area.
“When you make it easy for cars to get to a place, they come. A lot of them,” she said.