from l to r (Jim Hamilton, President Okanagan College; Jim Garlick, Mayor District of Coldstream; Herman Halvorsen, Chair Regional District North Okanagan; John Lent, Regional Dean Okanagan College.
The North Okanagan Regional District has entered into a 40-year lease with Okanagan College to use 10 acres at the Kalamalka campus for a running track, sports field and other activities. However, a number of obstacles must be overcome first, including going to referendum to borrow $7.8 million.
“We need to answer people’s concerns and talk to them about why this is a benefit,” said Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, adding that there is a need for residents to rally around the project.
“Go out and talk to your friends and neighbours and think about why this makes sense.”
The plan calls for an Olympic-size, rubberized running track; an artificial turf field for football, soccer, rugby and field lacrosse; facilities for high-jumping, pole-vault and discus-throwing; covered seating for 400 spectators; a 4,575-square-foot field house with change rooms; and a 1,948-square-foot building with washrooms and meeting space.
However, there is no timeline for a referendum or construction as Coldstream council must first submit an application to the Agricultural Land Commission to allow for a non-conforming use within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Council is expected to discuss the matter as early as Monday, and Garlick supports the land being used for recreational activities.
“It’s part of the college, it’s not under irrigation and the potential for pure agriculture is limited,” he said, adding that it hasn’t been used for crops in decades.
“It would be too simplistic to say it’s agriculture and we have to leave it as agriculture.”
Concern among some residents about the loss of agricultural land played a role in a sports complex being shot down on Aberdeen Road in 2007. However, Garlick doesn’t expect the same debate about the current proposal.
“It’s a different location and facility. It’s smaller and it fits the community better,” he said, pointing out that it is some distance from homes and has highway access.
Garlick is also convinced the sports facility can act as a catalyst for growth at the college, including new programs and a demonstration farm.
“I want agriculture taught at the college,” he said.
There is the possibility that a referendum could be held in conjunction with civic elections in November 2011. Borrowing $7.8 million would work out to about $17 extra annually over 20 years for the average home in Greater Vernon.
Okanagan College officials believe the facility could benefit students by providing recreational and competitive opportunities.
“It’s also possible that we could look at running athletic development programs,” said president Jim Hamilton.
The prospect of an Olympic-sized track is good news for the Vernon Amateur Athletic Association.
“This will be a Mondo track and in the track world, that’s fast,” said Ian Cameron, with the Vernon Amateur Athletic Association.
The current track at Polson Park is not regulation size, and Cameron says the new facility could be used by youth, senior athletes, Special Olympics and recreational walkers, and it could host special events.
“The B.C. Summer Games would be a great thing for the community to hold,” he said.
The lack of a regulation-sized field has also been a challenge for the Vernon Minor Football Association.
“This is great for the youth of the community,” said Bill Tarr, with the association, of the proposal.
Other groups supporting the facility are the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre for off-season training, the Vernon Jubilee Hospital cardio program, the Kal Rats running club and the school district.
Wayne Lippert, Vernon mayor, says it’s important for football and track sports to move ahead.
“I support the facility but council has not talked about it. The college is a good site for the facility,” he said.
This Report is from The Vernon Morning Star!