Athletes look to fill void with facility
Bill Glover loves nothing more than heading out for a run, but that’s increasingly challenging.
Greater Vernon doesn’t have a regulation-sized track with a rubberized surface, so the 67-year-old must contend with the existing track at Polson Park, which is not oval in shape and is infamous for potholes.
“I curse when I see the track because one side will be nothing but mud because of irrigation over night,” said Glover, a B.C. Seniors Games athlete.
Paul Anderson almost didn’t move to Vernon because of what he considers an inadequate track.
“When I went to Kamloops to look, I thought I had died and gone to heaven because of their sports facility,” said the 55-year-old triathelete.
Given their experiences, Glover and Anderson are part of a team promoting the borrowing of $7.5 million April 6 for a sports field and athletics facility at Okanagan College.
“People will move here because of the facility. People have to be drawn to a community,” said Anderson.
Beyond seniors, youth have been negatively impacted by the lack of an approved track.
There are no track programs in local secondary schools and membership in Vernon Triple A Track and Field has largely stagnated.
“I drive kids to Kelowna and Kamloops for training,” said Ian Cameron, Vernon Triple A head coach, adding that districts and zones can’t be held here.
The Polson track turns into a slick surface when it rains and there isn’t sufficient room to throw the javelin or hammer.
“We’re a track club that can’t train in all of the events,” said Cameron.
Special Olympics athletes have had to abandon Polson Park.
“It’s difficult for them because of the unevenness of the track,” said Cameron.
The inner field of the proposed athletics facility would also be used by Vernon Minor Football.
“Seaton doesn’t have a field and Grahame Park (Fulton school) is available sometimes,” said Bill Tarr, a long-time coach, adding, though, that there is stiff competition with other sports organizations for school fields.
None of the school fields have change rooms and, in some cases, no accessible washrooms.
“Parents coming from Kelowna, Penticton and the Coast just laugh at us,” said Tarr.
Some football is played on the DND baseball diamonds, but the cleats dig up the outfields, creating safety concerns and driving up repair costs.
Football registration is kept low because of the lack of facilities.
Tarr is convinced there is a need for the proposed complex at the college and particularly the artifical turf.
“It can be used time after time,” he said, adding that natural grass can be damaged from constant use and requires down periods to recover.
Cameron anticipates a resurgence in track sports.
“When this (complex) goes through, the numbers will increase,” he said.
Other sports that could also utilize the athletics facility are field lacrosse, rugby and ultimate frisbee, as well as local residents walking and running.
Vernon Jubilee Hospital is considering health programs (heart smart/physio-recovery) because of the close proximity of the proposed site.
There have been suggestions of Okanagan College using the facility to launch sports education courses, as well as recreational offerings for students.
“If we get the track, it will be great for me but it will be great for the entire community,” said Anderson, who trains three to four hours a day.
“When you see kids going to Kelowna or Lumby for track, it boggles my mind.”
The referendum to borrow $7.5 million will be held April 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with polls at Priest Valley Gym, Ellison Elementary, Colstream Elementary and BX Elementary.
Advance polls run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 27 and April 3 at the Schubert Centre, the Coldstream municipal office and the regional district office.