Tannis Nelson

Tannis Nelson

Complex gets rough ride

There were some intense discussion as about 30 people used an input session to learn more about borrowing $7.5 million

Not everyone is accepting the potential benefit of a Greater Vernon sports complex.

There were some intense discussion as about 30 people used a Friday input session to learn more about possibly borrowing $7.5 million for a running track and sports field next to Okanagan College.

“The average wage here is very low. You ask for more money but we don’t have more money coming in,” said one man.

If approved in the April 6 referendum, the money would be borrowed over 20 years and the impact for the average home would be $15 a year.

Proponents of the project have stated that the facility would be a community asset and they expect a large number of residents to walk there.

But resident Karen Edgeworth doesn’t buy that argument, saying people use Wesbild Centre.

“Walkers don’t use a regulation-sized track. I go by Polson Park (the existing track) and no one uses it.”

The proposed facility has been promoted by the track and field club, running groups and minor football.

“It doesn’t make sense to spend money on these groups,” said Edgeworth.

Suggestions the facility would boost the economy by hosting events were also scrutinized.

“We won’t get visited that often,” said Jim Babchuk, who lives in Lavington.

“Where I live on Highway 6, there are no businesses that will benefit.”

Among the potential events are the B.C. summer and seniors games because they require a regulation-sized track which Vernon lacks.

“It’s the only thing they are bringing up but they are only awarded every 10 years or so to the same town,” said resident Dave Lowry.

Other questions revolved around the location and the impact on traffic.

But some of those in attendance spoke out in favour of borrowing the funds.

“As seniors, we can’t just think of our age bracket. It’s our young grandkids,” said Sandra Ohlemann  of providing youth with activities.

Ohlemann also spoke of the popularity of the track in Prince George.

“Even in the winter you see a lot of seniors walking there,” she said.

Keith Pinkoski, Regional District of North Okanagan planner, investigated Kamloops’ track.

“In the winter, they are finding walkers lining up to get on the track. They can’t clear the snow fast enough,” he said.

Resident Klaus Ohlemann insists there will be an economic impact for businesses and residents if the complex proceeds.

“The various sporting groups attract certain events. A club may hold a number of meets and there’s an influx of people,” he said.

Tannis Nelson, RDNO community development co-ordinator, says recreational amenities help retain and attract residents.

“We need the facilities to encourage people to stay,” she said.