RDN putting funds into Rollo McClay Park; Huxley grants on hold with federal government

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 1 2020

Monday, June 22, saw the summer meeting of the Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC) for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held via Zoom, with no members of the public present.

Vanessa Craig, RDN Director for Area B, chaired the meeting. Yann Gagnon, RDN Parks Manager, and Elaine McCullough, RDN Parks Planner for Area B, were also present to report to the Gabriolans who sit on POSAC.

In his parks report, Gagnon had updated information on upcoming work being done at the Rollo McClay Community Park, and on the current status of the Huxley Park development plans. He answered questions about improving how the public interfaces with the conservation area in and around Coats Marsh Regional Park.

There was also discussion around exploring a trail linkage through Captain Ahab and Tally Ho Community Parks to connect the Whalebone trail system through to the Wild Cherry area.

Rollo McClay portable

The RDN will be doing a structural assessment on the portable at Rollo McClay this summer. 

Gagnon said, “We have some funds identified to do an assessment of the structure.”

This will include an assessment of inside the walls; the roof; as well as underneath, to come up with a recommendation for the future of the portable.

Currently, there are no capital funds in place for replacement of the portable.

Gagnon said, “We’re in ‘repair and assess’ - that should be done in the next few months - we will go from there.”

POSAC member Kyle Clifford is also current chair of the Gabriola Recreation Society, principle user of the portable.

Clifford asked, “Is that assessment going to be done in-house? Or external? I hope you’re not allocating much funding towards that?”

Gagnon said the RDN wanted to do it in-house, but with the current staff at full capacity, it will be contracted out to a third party.

“We have three other buildings that require similar assessments. It shouldn’t cost a lot to do so, we’re asking for condition assessment, not asking for detailed recommendations.

“We have a general idea of what’s going to happen [at Rollo]; we want to make sure it’s well documented and the third party comes up with a recommendation that we’ll be taking into consideration.

“Fair to say, the cost of repairs could be greater than replacement on this one, but we’ll be able to make better decisions once we have that report.”

Rollo ball fields upgrades

Gagnon said the work planned for the Rollo ball fields will be done this fall.

He said due to COVID, the RDN missed the window they had for doing fill renovations on the infields.

“With no organized sports, we’re going to focus on improving drainage of the infields, signage improvement, and the dugouts need attention - either repair or replacement.”

He said the intent was to get the work done on the infields this summer.

There are also plans for work to be done on the outfields, in the early fall, before the heavy rains settle in. Gagnon said he knows there are going to be some users on the fields this summer, but is hoping to get the outfield work done after all the ball games are done for 2020, so that the outfields can be left alone until next spring.

Andrea McLuckie, president of the Gabriola Slo-Pitch Association, said there is going to be an adult league season playing this summer on the ball fields, and that she is in touch with RDN Parks Operations staff to coordinate their work with the games being played.

The infields were slated to be getting done this week, ahead of when the summer ball season kicked in.

Captain Ahab and Town Ho Community Parks

A request came in to the RDN asking that work be done to improve the access to Captain Ahab Community Park in the Whalebone area, as well as create an area within the park for the public to gather. Rob Brockley, POSAC member for the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust, said putting trails through Captain Ahab Park, and then through Town Ho Community Park, would then connect Whalebone trails to existing trails which go up to Wild Cherry. POSAC members passed a motion recommending GaLTT do the legwork to give POSAC information for future decisions regarding Captain Ahab and Town Ho Community Parks.

RDN still waiting on Huxley Park grant announcements

POSAC members were quite clear that they are hearing from the Gabriola community about wanting to see Huxley Park completed, in particular the skatepark.

Gagnon said they are hopeful there is an announcement coming soon on the federal/provincial grants the RDN applied for to complete Huxley Park redevelopment. 

He was asked whether there is a Plan B if grants don’t come through.

Director Craig said the RDN is not going to use staff time to come up with a Plan B that might not be needed if the grants do come through.

Staff with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said this week, “We hope to announce successful applicants from the first intake very soon from both the Community, Culture and Recreation (CCR) infrastructure stream and the Rural and Northern Communities (RNC) infrastructure stream, both part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan.

“The projects are with the Federal Government for final decision; the in-depth review and approval process has taken longer than expected.

“Approved projects will be listed on our website after the public announcement is made.”

Coats Marsh

RDN staff were asked if there was any way to better inform users of the 707 Community Park and the Coats Marsh Regional Park about the differences in the two parks, in particular as trails from the 707 side cross over into Coats Marsh, which is within its management plan considered to be a conservation area. 

Members of the public have reported dogs being off leash in Coats Marsh chasing birds and other wildlife in the lake and surrounding area. 

Staff were also asked if there could be times of the year where public access to areas could be closed off for nesting seasons of the numerous unique species. 

POSAC members stated that they understood Coats to be an area where dogs are to be kept on leash; and where biking and horseback riding was not permitted. 

Gagnon said Coats Marsh is a regional park. He said, “We would need to identify a conservation zone within the park. Right now you are just entering a regional park.”

He said, that to be prudent, before any signage could go up, staff would need to determine what is permitted within the park.

If further issues are needing to be dealt with, and the management plan updated, “that has to happen with the Regional Board.”

The Vision in the 2011-2021 Coats Marsh Management Plan states the park, “is managed by the RDN, in partnership with The Nature Trust, local environmental groups and educational institutions, as a conservation area and education centre featuring two rare Gulf Island ecosystems - a Coastal Douglas-Fir forest and a freshwater wetland. Residents and visitors are welcome and encouraged to explore the park trail system and to participate in park programs in order to appreciate and learn from the its natural environment, cultural history, and management process.”

POSAC members stated they would support some signage going up advising the public when they are entering the regional park which has different uses and requirements, and advising them of the sensitive ecosystems within Coats Marsh. RDN staff committed to coming back to the POSAC for the fall meeting with more information on Coats Marsh and what could be done there.