IT'S TIME! Oceanside's Youth and Community Deserve a New Track
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The community, residents, athletes, parents, running clubs, sports clubs, teams and coaches of Oceanside call on the RDN Board to contribute and green light an amazing legacy.
After 42 years, IT'S TIME to invest in a new track and facilities at Ballenas.
* Support the new track. Sign and share the petition today! * (Update: We've hit 1,000 signatures! Let's push for 2,000!)
For over 15 years, multiple groups have been working tirelessly to get support for a new track surface and finally there is momentum. Qualicum School District has committed $200,000 to the project, BUT there is currently not full support from the RDN Board, with some members requiring more information to support this project. We petition all board members and other organizations to support and fund this project to make this track part of their legacy for many generations to come.
= WHY A NEW TRACK? =
The Ballenas running track is not fit for purpose. Just look at the grass and weeds on the photo above. Nicknamed "The Dust Bowl" by the athletes who use it, this "track" is littered with divots and holes where muddy water pools form. It is now no more than a weed-infested, uneven meadow with the 100m track actually sloping upwards. It is also dangerous to run on and in forty-two years, only $42,000 has been put into its upkeep - that is $1,000 a year, less than some residents spend on lawn care.
It is not weather-proof or inclusive to wheelchairs, walkers, canes, the Special Olympics and strollers.
As a community, we want to encourage the growth of grass-roots activity - just not as the material on our track...
In a recent poll in PQBNews, 88% of residents were overwhelmingly in favour of a new track.
WHO USES IT?
Used by 1,000s of children and adults, the facility hosts:
- Ballenas and Kwalicum High Schools & their Track Teams
- The School District 69 (Qualicum) Annual District Track and Field meet for all Elementary schools
- Oceanside Track & Field Club
- Mid Island Distance Club
- Oceanside Running Club Association
...as well as residents from the community who use it to walk, jog and run on as part of their fitness routine.
There are many more however who do not use it... because it is not fit for purpose.
"HELL ON KID'S LEGS"
The Ballenas track is a hard "cinder" track which were common until 1960. In 1951, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile on a cinder track.
Cinder tracks are "hell on the kid's legs and hard on their joints" as one coach commented, and cause many other serious injuries including shin splints, an injury reported by athletes using the track.
WHY A NEW TRACK?
All entry-level tracks are now built with polyurethane - the springy red rubber tracks you see at any official event from local track meets to the Olympics. They have the following benefits:
- The track decreases the number of running-related injuries by 50 percent ("Journal of Applied Physiology report," Amy Kerdok - 2002)
- Dust-free and no potholes, weeds or grass.
- Long-lasting and minimum maintenance
- Accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, canes, members of the Special Olympics and adults pushing baby strollers
- Local athletes will no longer be at a disadvantage and will be finally able to practice in spikes (athletic shoes) instead of trainers.
- Easier on the joints
- Produce an improvement in running speeds by 2-3%
- No annual line-marking needed
- An even running surface
- Many tracks use recycled materials such as athletic shoes
A LEGACY FOR OUR CHILDREN
At grass-roots level, hundreds of children have their first track experience at the annual District 69 Elementary school event. For many, it might be their last. The uneven surface no doubt puts kids off for life. As more and more children stay indoors, spending hours gaming and watching YouTube, we are fighting a health epidemic amongst our youth. What better investment than a new track, which will pay for itself many times over in future savings for our already-strained health system?
Some of these children might have gone on to compete in the Olympics, like former Ballenas student Michael Mason, World Youth Champion and Olympian who is currently competing at the World Athletic Championships. Unsurprisingly, he had to go outside the area to find facilities that were a minimum standard.
And the story continues for other elite athletes... 2018 110m Hurdles Provincial Champion, Shane Stewart had to travel to Comox four times a week to run on a proper track: “Since elementary school until Grade 10 I always had to train on the dirt track behind Ballenas,” said Stewart. “I am not going to lie, it’s terrible.”
Grade 12 Ballenas student Juliette Desvaux, who this summer finished 11th in the Canadian Nationals 200m, endured the track through winter and spring, only to be injured on the track the week before the season started. She also has to practise her sprint starts on the long jump run up.
Michelle Stillwell, MLA Parksville-Qualicum and a multiple gold medalist Paralympian has backed a new track stating:
"During my athletic career as a wheelchair racer, I had the privilege of representing Canada at many events, including the Paralympics. The time involved to reach the level of elite athlete is immense, this was increased because I had to travel to Nanaimo or Courtenay to train as Oceanside does not have a suitable track to train on, or to hold events.
When my son was a member of the Oceanside Track and Field I spent many hours at the Ballenas track. There is no question that this track no longer serves the purpose it was meant to.
I believe that Oceanside would benefit immensely from having a first-rate track that could be utilized by local athletes, as well as hosting athletic events."
WE'VE BEEN ASKING FOR OVER TEN YEARS
The first feasibility study for a new track was carried out in 2009 but politicians "passed the buck".
The headline in the editorial of the Parksville Qualicum Beach News in June 2019 read "Young PQB athletes deserve some better facilities". The editorial stated:
"Exactly what kind of sorry track are the poor kids running on? How is it possible that after many, many years of people pointing out the problem, the track is in such shoddy condition?"
Calls for improvements have been going on for years, and the editorial references multiple headlines over seven years calling for upgrades:
- ‘Ballenas track needs an upgrade’ – PQB News, Aug. 31, 2012'
- ‘Athletes go the distance on rough turf’ – PQB News, May 2, 2017'
- 'Local running club wants track to be upgraded’ – PQB News, Feb 23, 2018
- ‘Official calls for Ballenas track upgrade’– PQB News, Sep 10, 2018
- ‘ORCA continues push for track upgrade at Ballenas’ —PQB News, Nov 14, 2018
The editorial continues:
"How long must we continue to wait? Will it take a severe injury to a young athlete to get our politicians to quit passing the buck around and actually get something done At this point, it’s beyond frustrating, it’s embarrassing.
Yet here we are, months later, and the youngsters are still running on weed-covered rubbish. At some point, you have to figure a true leader will step up and actually address the problem. But finding actual leadership has proven difficult, to say the least.
Fix the track. Yesterday."
AN AMAZING LEGACY FOR GENERATIONS TO COME
A new track will:
- Bring Track & Field and running to a whole new generation, as we encourage children to get outside, keep fit and healthy.
- Be an incredible resource for the entire community to enjoy and socialise.
- Host other communities in athletic events during the year and increase business for local hotels, tourism and businesses (generating income of up to $1.75m).
- Reduce the current and future costs and strain on our local health system as people stay healthy, supple and fit.
- Foster and inspire the dreams and ambitions of our youth to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Michael Mason and Michelle Stilwell to represent Canada at the highest level.
Let's not keep putting this off. Now is the time to commit to making one of the very best uses of funding to give our children, seniors and the whole community a legacy for many years to come!
Support the new track. Sign and share the petition today!
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