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Letter: Handsworth school community needs an artificial turf field

"As time seems to drag on, the sense of urgency grows for us, as members of this community," parents and coaches write, in an open letter to North Vancouver district council and school trustees.
Handsworth Wants Artificial Turf PM web
Handsworth student athletes Cameryn Jensen (left), Henry Newland, Mairen Madill and Brennan Madill gather in April at Mountainside Secondary, for a North Shore News story about the community’s push for an artificial turf field at their newly built school.

An open letter to North Vancouver school trustees and District of North Vancouver mayor and council:

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us all, it is that time is a precious commodity. This is most true for our children and the lost opportunities they suffered over the last few years.

Many kids have been negatively impacted in terms of both their physical and mental health, and are truly desperate to resume activities like school sports as soon as possible.

As parents, we feel their pain and sense of urgency. This is lost time they will never get back to play sports with their friends at school, have fun in PE, and watch and cheer others on as they do the same.

Sadly, Handsworth students have no idea when they will be able to resume school-based outdoor activities. Although the new school is complete, there does not appear to be a plan for outdoor space that is similar to what exists at other secondary schools in North Vancouver. As time seems to drag on, the sense of urgency grows for us, as members of this community.

Recently, some of us provided presentations to both the School District No. 44 Board of Education and the District of North Vancouver council. We are looking for courageous elected officials willing to be champions. We are looking for leaders with the courage and passion to deliver Handsworth an accessible all weather turf field as soon as possible. It is the only practical solution for the rainy climate of the North Shore. It is also about fairness and equity to children and youth. 

Mayor Mike Little commented at the DNV meeting on April 25 that “a grass field is only usable 10 hours per week.” Why shouldn’t all children and youth have access to usable outdoor space at their local schools? Other schools like Argyle, Windsor, Carson and Sutherland have artificial turf, but there does not appear to be a similar plan for Handsworth. All taxpayers in the District of North Vancouver deserve access to these community resources. Our elected officials have a duty to ensure that community resources are equitably distributed throughout the community and that schools have similar outdoor amenities.

It also makes sense from the sustainability point of view.

The District of North Vancouver’s Artificial Sports Field Program and 10-Year Funding Strategy [February 2017 report] suggested that it makes sense to “build artificial turf field in a location that’s already disturbed (eg. school sites for maximum use); and spread artificial turf fields throughout the district.” 

Distribution throughout North Vancouver also means that people can walk or cycle to the field in their area rather than drive to the other side of North Vancouver. It also could be very attractive for community tournaments to have these fields available throughout the North Shore.

With proper facilities, sport can drive recreation and tourism in our community.

School board trustees and District of North Vancouver councillors, show the Handsworth kids and community you care: become a champion and advocate for this important cause; encourage your staff to do the same; make this a priority.

Carmen Jensen, Handsworth PAC co-chair
Jana Madill, executive director, North Shore Girls Soccer Club
Sue Goddard, Handsworth field hockey coach and board member,WVFHC
Wayne Theobald, director, North Vancouver Spring Flag Football
Darren Benning, head coach, Handsworth football