Dawn Coe-Jones was ‘the best ambassador Lake Cowichan ever had’, says Mayor Ross Forrest. (Submitted)

Dawn Coe-Jones was ‘the best ambassador Lake Cowichan ever had’, says Mayor Ross Forrest. (Submitted)

Two Lake Cowichan ballfields take on famous names, one to go to public input

Dawn Coe-Jones Field and Appollos Field

The two ballfields at Centennial Park will be called Dawn Coe-Jones Field and Appollos Field but the public will be asked to help choose a name for the soccer pitch there.

Lake Cowichan town council debated, then chose the two names at their April 3 meeting: one for a famous golfer and one for a successful sports team.

Naming the fields is “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Mayor Ross Forrest.

“I know that there is a name that has come forward here, [a letter had come forward to the meeting about Bing Wise], which is very legitimate, but today in a five minute period I wrote down 26 names that I know of that were all involved in minor baseball to that type of an extent.

“To name one of them would be a very difficult process. I wouldn’t want to have to make that decision. There are 26 names just off the top of my head and I haven’t talked to anyone. There are probably another 25 names out there,” Forrest said.

In Lake Cowichan from 1951 to now, baseball was the predominant sport, Forrest pointed out.

“We didn’t have an arena till 1970,” he said. “All we had was baseball. Everybody was involved in it as volunteers.

“I’m happy to see the Appollos name…and one reason I will say that is because, first of all, the name Appollos comes from Bill Carpentier, who grew up in Lake Cowichan.

“For people who aren’t aware, as I’m sure some of the new people aren’t, he was physician for the Apollo Space Shuttle program. There are plaques in town about that. That [explains] the name Appollos,” Forrest said, before continuing.

“The other thing is Appollos were together as a team for 40 years, longer than any other sports team in Lake Cowichan.

Further, the Appollos hosted the largest ball tournament on Vancouver Island for 30 years for slow pitch. It brought thousands of ballplayers, Forrest noted and was an economic driver for the community for 30 years.

“I think that it fits more than one box to me,” he said.

“I was very reluctant to put that name forward myself because I was part of the Appollos. But I also want to make it perfectly clear that there were 100 people who were the Appollos, not just the different guys who played for the team in those years but also their wives and families who helped out for the 30 years of ball tournaments.”

Coun. Tim McGonigle said he agreed with Forrest.

“Regardless of who you choose, if you throw names forward, it’s hard to do justice to those you forgot. It’s difficult to name a baseball field unless you have a major league player that has come from that organization.

“I know we wanted to commemorate [Dawn Coe-Jones] as a Hall of Famer. That choice was almost unanimous. Looking at the smaller ballfield I would move that Appollos be the name for that, and I would suggest that the two names that are tied to the soccer field be put forward like we did with the columbarium, for public input, and from there we can make the final naming of that.

”I don’t believe [the soccer pitch] will be utilized this year, there is no soccer organized,” he said, adding he hoped eventually to see a team from Lake Cowichan.

“I would suggest that putting the second ballfield just to public notice would get 300 names and then we would be in a worse situation than we currently are. I think we’ve narrowed it down to the best choices. I do understand the history in Mr. Wise, but I also understand the history in other people that have come after and before him. Similar to what Mayor Forrest said, I think [Appollos] is an appropriate name for the second ball field.

“I would move those two as the naming of the ballfields and put the other two names forward to public input on our Facebook page.”

McGonigle said he wanted to see action soon.

”I think it’s important that we do it and have it done before baseball season starts. We have a tendency of sometimes letting things go a little too long. I would certainly like some small plaques for naming them when the time comes.”

Coun. Lorna Vomacka, who has not lived in Lake Cowichan as long as some other councillors, said, “Thank you for letting me know how the Appollos were named. I didn’t know that. I definitely will approve of that.”

Council voted to accept the names Dawn Coe-Jones and Appollos and put the names Dobie Somerville and Kaatza to the public through Facebook for input.

Forrest then said, “It’s a very difficult thing. Bing Wise? I knew Bing very well. But you also have to remember that he only lived in Lake Cowichan from 1951 to 1968 where some of these other ones probably donated 30 years of volunteering. It’s very hard to overlook others for one person.”

In asking for questions from the public at the end of the meeting, council was asked why, although Dawn Coe-Jones is famous, a golfer’s name would be attached to a baseball field.

“The Dawn Coe-Jones one was decided over a year ago,” Forrest said. “It wasn’t to do with baseball. Those fields are not specific to one team or one user group. Dawn Coe, without a doubt is the best ambassador our community ever had. For 25 years on the national tour, she was on national television correcting every announcer that said she was from Campbell River by saying ‘I’m from Lake Cowichan.’ Because she was born in Campbell River but grew up in Lake Cowichan, and constantly reminded everybody that Lake Cowichan was her home.

”Lake Cowichan was [before a] national audience for 25 years. And she was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame. Nobody else in our community has had that distinction. That’s why she was chosen. Sports is sports.

“You’re absolutely right. We did have others who were involved in the 75 years of our community. The trouble is, we have too many of them. I guarantee that for every Bing Wise supporter, there’s a Charlie Stroulger supporter, or a Bill Lowe supporter, or a Pete Hawryluk supporter, or a Ted Forrest supporter. It goes on and on and on.

“It’s difficult, it’s really difficult. Trust me, I’m a baseball person, a huge baseball fan. The only tattoo I have is for a baseball team. This is not anything against baseball. It’s naming a field. And, like Coun. McGonigle said, it’s all still Centennial Park. It’s just distinguishing one field from another. That’s all. But it’s still a very tough thing to do. I don’t think any of us have taken it lightly. We take our jobs very seriously here. We vote on what we think is right.”