As construction proceeds on the new sports facility at Okanagan College, I would like to make my pitch for also keeping the existing track at Polson Park. The draft Polson Park redevelopment plan calls for elimination of the track.
However, I think it would be a huge mistake to lose this valuable recreational amenity so close to downtown. Plans are for a higher density of both residents and workers in the downtown area, which will bring greater demand for nearby recreational facilities that the track can help provide.
Running is a sport with numerous health benefits that requires minimal equipment and skills to participate. Having a track at Polson Park allows many people to take a short warm-up run or bike ride to the track, do as many laps as they desire or have time for, and return to their other activities without having to drive anywhere. The proximity of the Polson track to the downtown area makes it possible to fit in a run or walk workout before work or during a lunch break. The track also complements other fitness opportunities in the park such as the Health Beat Fitness area, tennis courts, and lawn bowling.
During the lobbying for the new sports facility, you may have heard that the Polson track was too small but it is a standard 400-metre track which simply has tighter curves than what has become the accepted shape. Having a track with the typical 400-metre length allows a runner to compare his or her lap times on any standard track. Most run training programs to prepare for races include timed repetitions of 400 metres or multiples thereof.
The track adds to the diversity of activities that are available in Polson Park. It has been nice to see families using the track together, and this fits with other family activities such as the AquaPark. In my time at the track, I have met a woman from Germany who was training for a marathon and talked to a college student on a U.S. soccer scholarship who was training for her upcoming season. The Polson track is in a perfect location for tourists, as out of town guests may be staying in downtown accommodation and/or may not have use of a car. Similarly, the location is accessible to youth and others who may not have automobiles.
The Polson track is ideal for community and charity events that involve walking or running, such as the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. I think it is far better having these events near our downtown rather than sending them elsewhere.
The main problem with the existing track is that is gets muddy and puddled after rain. I have even gone to the track during a dry spell and found the track muddy from the lawn sprinklers. This is why existing use is not a good indicator of demand. Would you go to a gym if you never knew if it would be open when you got there? The poor track condition when wet is not a surprise because the track is lower than the adjacent ground, meaning that water drains onto the track. A solution I see is to both raise and re-surface the track with a non-muddy material such as compacted crusher chips that form a firm, well-drained surface. This material is often prescribed for trails, and I have seen such trails usable within hours after a major rainstorm.
The Polson track will help keep residents healthy and fit, attract and retain new businesses and workers, attract tourists and enhance their visits, be a perfect amenity for community events, and reduce traffic demand and greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Vernon is currently carrying out public consultation on a parks master plan. If you agree that the track at Polson Park should not be eliminated, please let the city know by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone the long range planner at 250-550-7830. Once the Polson track is gone, it will never come back so please take action now.