Grass playing fields at Mountainside Secondary will now remain open to the public after hours – at least on a trial basis - after a complaint from a neighbour prompted a change in policy.
Until recently, two grass sports fields at the high school were among the very few such fields on the North Shore that weren’t fenced off.
That meant the fields were often used by neighbouring community members – for walking or kicking a ball around – when they hadn’t been booked by another group.
“I’ve been using it for the last 20 plus years,” said S.K. Lai, who lives on nearby Shannon Crescent.
Often neighbourhood kids would run around on the field or people would use it for jogging, he said.
But when Mountainside’s recent seismic upgrade was completed, a new chain-link fence was put up around the field.
Lai noticed recently that the gates were kept locked and padlocked after hours, effectively shutting out the public. “It’s like Fort Knox or something,” he said.
Lai said he understands public use would be limited when the fields have already been booked by sports groups. But he didn’t get why they would be limited during all times out of school hours.
The move also rubbed him the wrong way, he said, as such fields are ultimately paid for by taxpayers.
Lai sent an email to the school district asking for an explanation for the change. But nobody was in a hurry to respond.
Fence to be left open - 'for now'
On Thursday, however, the school district appeared to change its mind, telling the North Shore News that the gates won’t be locked to the public – at least on a trial basis.
The fence was erected primarily to protect the grass fields, which are among very few – and sought-after – grass playing fields on the North Shore, said Lisa Dalla Vecchia, spokesperson for the school district.
Fencing allows the fields to be closed after periods of heavy rain or when needed for the grass to recover following a sport event, she said. It limits damage to vehicles and property by errant balls.
The fence was also a way to keep dogs off the field, said Dalla Vecchia.
Dogs have damaged field
Dogs aren’t allowed on school district property or sports fields, she said.
“However, at Mountainside, the reality is many dog owners allow their dogs to run on the fields, and this has led to field damage (e.g., holes dug in the sports fields, uncollected dog waste or poop bags left on the fields).”
The grass sports fields at Mountainside are owned by the school district and operate under a joint use agreement with the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission which oversees scheduling of all the sports fields owned by the school district and North Vancouver municipalities.
Following the concern expressed, “For now, we will leave the fencing unlocked but will monitor to ensure the field is used as intended,” wrote Dalla Vecchia.
That means if dog owners let Fido poop and dig on the grass field, the gate could be locked up again.
Two other school district grass fields – at the Lucas Centre and Seycove Secondary – are fenced, she added.