Ambitious year ahead for Area F Park Commission

It's an ambitious year ahead for the Area F (Cowichan Lake South/ Skutz Falls) Park Commission.

  • Feb. 7, 2011 6:00 p.m.
Above - Area F (Cowichan Lake South/ Skutz Falls) Parks Commission members discuss issues at the Mesachie Lake Fire Hall during their Annual General Meeting

Above - Area F (Cowichan Lake South/ Skutz Falls) Parks Commission members discuss issues at the Mesachie Lake Fire Hall during their Annual General Meeting

It’s an ambitious year ahead for the Area F (Cowichan Lake South/ Skutz Falls) Park Commission.

That much was made clear during the group’s Annual General Meeting, Thursday, February 3, during which time chair David Lowther outlined last year’s accomplishments, and what next year’s goals will be. The election of new members also took place.

“We are an advisory body. As such, we can only make proposals to the Regional District, which then must be negotiated through a bureaucracy that has priorities of its own,” Lowther said, in his chairperson’s report. “We rely on area representative Ian Morrison for support when there are conflicting agendas, and we get it.”

Last year’s major project was upgrading the Mesachie Lake ball field. The former general store on the corner of the property was purchased for $249,000, the field was expanded to regulation size and upgraded for an additional $65,000. The total coast was $314,000, thanks to a $20,000 grant from the UBCM.

This was quite the expense for the electoral area, resulting in an exhaustion of its improvements budget through to 2014.

Last year, the commission also decided to convert the unused Honeymoon Bay ball field, located behind the community hall, into a dog walking area. This move will save about $5,000 annually from the maintenance budget that can be applied elsewhere.

Another accomplishment last year was the illumination of Central Park in Honeymoon Bay, at a cost of $22,000, which was $8,000 less than what was budgeted for.

The tennis courts, also located next to the community hall in Honeymoon Bay, may be torn down, as a result of a staff recommendation, due to insurance costs and the high cost of repairs, estimated at $40,000.

“Amenities once surrendered are difficult to regain,” Lowther warned in his chairperson’s report.

One ongoing project, which will continue in 2011, will be the renovation of the existing lawn bowling greens at Honeymoon Bay’s Central Park.

“The bowling greens were at one time a big part of the Honeymoon Bay community,” commission member Bob Burden said. Burden, along with his wife Shirley, are organizing the lawn bowling effort.

The original boards still surround the old greens area, Burden said, and are still viable.

“It’s just a matter of scraping the top soil off and re-seeding it,” he said.

Any number of things, including lawn bowling leagues and tournaments, can be organized after the greens have been re-done.

Bob plans on getting some cost estimates, read some how-to books on maintaining lawn bowling greens, and make further plans as to how to approach the renovations.

Commission member Bill Bakkan then provided an overview of the parks effort he’s heading; the construction of a pier, or something similar, for Honeymoon Bay’s Central Beach.

In 2003, there were plans in motion to have a pier and boat launch installed at the location, though plans never went anywhere.

Last year, Bakkan resurrected these plans, and began investigating the possibilities. After investigating the shallow water depth, it was determined that a boat launch would be prohibitively expensive, so investigations began into constructing a pier – a floating dock.

Current plans have the pier located at the eastern end of the beach, sealing off the western side for swimmers. Boats could be tied up on the eastern side of the floating dock.

But, plans end there.

“A lack of funding didn’t allow us to take it any further at this point,” Bakkan said.

Other plans for the beach area could include things like a beach volleyball court and other things.

The pier idea has already been approved by the commission, and has been forwarded to CVRD staff for consideration.

It’s more difficult than it sounds, Area F director Ian Morrison said after the meeting. The land is 2/3 Ministry of Highways land, and the landscape has changed since the last plans were put in motion. Organizers will have to look at it as a brand new project, he said.

A special guest to the meeting was Area E (Cowichan Station / Sahtlam / Glenora) Parks Commission representative Mike Lees, who asked for participation between the two bordering regional districts with regard to parks issues.

Sahtlam, he said, can use all the help it can find.

“It’s probably the only community west of Duncan that doesn’t have any parks,” he said.

They don’t want anything grandiose, just something with a swing and a slide – an area for families to play.

Other representatives from Sahtlam will stop by during future Area F Parks Commission meetings, he said.

Morrison suggested a joint meeting, in order to create a joint parks and trails master plan between the two areas; a suggestion the commission will consider.

With that, the meeting ended. The Gazette talked to Lowther after the meeting, to get his point of view on the current situation of Area F parks.

The trick, he said, will be to get around bureaucracy. With inflated prices attached to anything the CVRD helps put together, he argued that it’ll be easier for community members to form their own group, and do projects themselves.

“The key is getting the community to do it – to raise the money,” he said. “The taxpayers in Area F have been hit hard by lots of things lately.”

The pier project, Lowther said, must get done. Grants and other things should be looked into, since current costs are prohibitive.

“There’s no point of living next to the lake if there’s no place to swim,” he said. “We’re going to get it done.”

Area F Parks Commission members this year include chair David Lowther, Shirley Burden, Sharon Wilcox, Ray Wear, Dave Darling, Brian Peters, Bill Bakkan, Bob Burden, Carolyn LeBlanc, and ex-officio member Ian Morrison.