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Plans for artificial soccer fields likely to be deferred by DNV council

Members of the North Vancouver soccer community are enraged after long-awaited plans for more artificial turf fields have been pushed back again
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NVFC president Stuart Ince is concerned about the progress of field upgrades at Inter River Park and other DNV locations. He holds a sign stating the start date for prep work on the field behind him starting in 2018.

The District of North Vancouver will likely push back long-awaited building plans for a series of artificial turf soccer fields, a prospect that has left the local soccer community reeling.

On Jan. 30, council came together to discuss what projects would be retained, and which would be deferred, as a result of the annual budget plans.

On the deferral list was the build of a full-size artificial turf field at Inter River Park, a project initially proposed in 2018, and two additional field projects that would see the transformation of gravel fields to turf at Kilmer and Myrtle parks.

Ecole Handsworth Secondary, which the community has extensively campaigned for an artificial turf to be installed within, was noticeably absent from the plans.

“The fact that Handsworth wasn’t even on the agenda is an offence,” said Jana Madill, executive director of the North Shore Girls Soccer Club.

“Every school should have the same facilities, and every other high school has turf. So the fact that it wasn’t even considered was a disgrace.”

In 2018, council voted to replace Inter River’s grass field, a former landfill site that had an uneven surface and associated drainage problems, with artificial turf. The new artificial field would feature field lighting, a practice area, a new washroom, and new paved parking areas and sidewalks.

Last year, council said construction would begin in 2023.

“There should be a greater willingness to expand recreational facilities for, what is becoming, an expanding community,” said Stuart Ince, president of North Vancouver Football Club.

Ince said 33 percent of the club – which amounts to 1,100 players – are currently practicing on all-weather gravel fields.

“Both the boys and girls clubs are cramming kids onto what little turf we have, still over a third of the boys have to practise on gravel,” he said. “There has been scant attention paid by either the district or city to the outdoor recreational needs of the public. We rank rock bottom of all municipalities in terms of the ratio of registered kids playing soccer to the amount of turf fields,” he said.

During the preliminary budget discussion at council, Coun. Catherine Pope expressed concern that there was no mention in the budget of artificial turf for Handsworth, “despite promises made by most of the members on this council during the election campaign,” she said.

“Our mandate is to service the community’s needs, and putting all these projects that people have been telling us they want for years, putting them on hold or deferring or cancelling would, in my opinion, be irresponsible – and a total failure of our commitment to this community,” she said.

Coun. Herman Mah echoed the statement, adding how, as a father to a young daughter who is active in sports, he understands how important it is for the community to have “appropriate and close by” sporting facilities.

In the current draft budget, homeowners are looking at 4.5 per cent rise in the municipal property taxes for 2023. Adding more capital projects like turf fields would push that tax increase higher.

Mayor Mike Little said he sympathized with those championing the projects likely to be deferred, but it was unfortunately a necessary part of the budget planning.

“If we’re going to move a project forward, we have to pick a project to defer. This is the hard stuff,” he said. “This is the stuff where council doesn’t want to have to take away a project but we don’t have the capacity to do everything that’s coming towards us.”

He said the District of North Vancouver has around $90 million worth of projects in the queue but only the capacity to move forward with around $65 million worth.

A decision won’t be made concretely until after Feb. 13, when the official budget book is released, and following an input period, between Feb. 13 and March 6, from the public. Feedback on the budget can be submitted throughout the year at budget@dnv.org.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

MKerrLazenby@nsnews.com

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