After sitting on the backburner for over a decade, the Town of Lake Cowichan, along with Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan, announced yesterday (July 28) that proposed improvements to Centennial Park will finally be implemented thanks to a $500,000 grant from the federal government.
Planned improvements to Centennial Park are extensive and include renovations to the baseball diamonds, dugouts and pathways, as well as the installation of field lighting. While councillor Tim McGonigle said that the town is still looking to use natural turf in the upgrades, they will also be looking into the possibility of using artificial turf, considering the recent prevalence of water restrictions and the “new normal” for water consumption being pushed by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The town has previously invested money into Centennial Park, in order to raise pitching mounds, update the infield and attempt to deal with drainage issues, though McGonigle stresses that a “major capital investment” is necessary in order to make an impact on the park.
“The town has contributed capital funds in the last three years, but that hasn’t helped with the major problems,” he said. “This project has been around since my first election 13 years ago; even before that, discussions were already taking place.”
The grant is part of a Canada-wide infrastructure improvement program being funded by the federal government to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. $150 million is being invested in projects around the country, including a total of $896,000 being put into eight projects on Vancouver Island. The Town of Lake Cowichan received the maximum amount of $500,000, making it by far the largest on the Island. The total cost of the project is expected to be $1.4 million, with the town contributing the rest.
The master plan for the Centennial Park project was originally drawn up in 2008, but was eventually shelved after the town failed to secure funding. Prior to applying for the Canada 150 grant, the plan was partially updated to include a rough estimate of the cost of the project, due to inflation. The next step, McGonigle said, will be to finalize the estimate of material costs and to have engineer drawings made.
The project is expected to take two years to complete, and is planned to be unveiled in 2017, to commemorate Canada’s “sesquicentennial.”
Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan was in Lake Cowichan to announce that the town would be receiving the grant on behalf of the federal government, as he is currently the only Conservative MP on Vancouver Island. Duncan said that the Centennial Park project was chosen due to the presence of the Cowichan Lake Sports arena and also for the symbolic value.
“Centennial Park was probably a product of 1967,” Duncan said. “There are other buildings here not requiring work, and that contributes to the activity in the area.”
McGonigle said that he hopes the upgrade will allow Lake Cowichan to host provincial baseball championships, as well as increase its local use.
“It might entice a lot of the older baseball players to stay in town and play on local teams,” he said.
The Town of Lake Cowichan originally submitted the grant application in June. Joe Fernandez, the town’s CAO, explained that the project was chosen in order to meet the tight deadline for grant applications, as they did not have adequate time to prepare a plan for a new project.
“The project was something that we had that was almost shovel-ready” he said.
He also noted its significance due to being located in Centennial Park.