Parkland Secondary principal Lizanne Chicanot stands by the track which is the subject of a fundraising effort. The 35-year-old track is well beyond its best-before date. (Jason Earnshaw/Submitted)

Parkland Secondary principal Lizanne Chicanot stands by the track which is the subject of a fundraising effort. The 35-year-old track is well beyond its best-before date. (Jason Earnshaw/Submitted)

Fundraising campaign to replace North Saanich track off to the races

Track at Parkland Secondary School ‘well, well beyond its best-before date’

Residents of the Saanich Peninsula will have a better sense of proposed improvements to a popular but run-down recreation track at Parkland Secondary School in several months.

Lizanne Chicanot, principal of North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School, said proposed improvements depend on the final results of fundraising efforts – recently started as a joint project with the Memorial Park Society.

It owns the land and leases it to School District No. 63, with Parkland students representing the primary users of the track surrounding a soccer-pitch-sized grass field. It is a popular site for local runners and walkers of all ages, but also draws a range of other users including radio-control airplane flyers who use the track as a runway.

“[The track] really does provide a lot of recreation and good physical and mental health opportunities for the school or the public,” she said. Improvements also promise other benefits, said Chicanot.

They include attracting future provincial track-and-field championships, as well as other types of local, provincial, even national athletic events. “It is an ideal location (for such events),” said Chicanot, pointing to its proximity to Victoria International Airport and the BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay.

Improved recreational facilities would also be a necessary condition for the school to develop specialized education opportunities, such as a soccer academy, and create a larger recreational hub in cooperation with Peninsula Soccer and its nearby fields at Blue Heron Park.

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While the six-lane track is popular, the 35-year-old facility is also in the words of Chicanot “well, well beyond its best-before date.”

Weeds grow through parts of the track, while potholes mark other sections. A sign posted by the District of North Saanich recommends ‘light use only.’

“If we don’t built a new track, this one has to be taken away, because it is starting to become dangerous,” Chicanot said.

Stakeholders have sketched out three possible scenarios. The first imagines a new eight-lane track in a shifted location with a well-drained grass field in the middle that would include facilities for various track-and-field events. The current estimated price tag of this “gold-plated option” is $3.9 million.

The second option calls for re-surfacing coupled with improvements to the drainage of the grass field and the addition of various track-and-field facilities for an estimated $880,000.

The final option is to re-pave the existing track with asphalt at a cost of $540,000.

Fundraising is scheduled to wrap up in May 2021, but Chicanot expects to have a better sense of what is possible by March.

The school board has so far committed $300,000. Since its recent start, the fundraising campaign has received $3,500 in public donations in addition to the $5,000 raised 15 years ago.

“As you can imagine, it is very tricky during COVID to do something like this for obvious reasons,” she said.

Chicanot said the project has the support of the school board, Memorial Park Society, the municipalities, as well aslocal MLA Adam Olsen and MP Elizabeth May.

Brad Edgett, executive director of the Memorial Park Society, said both the provincial and federal government have already received grant requests for $1 million each with a third grant request due to be submitted by the end of the year. “I will continue to find appropriate grants that fit the scope of the program as we continue down the fundraising path,” he said.

Local entrepreneur John Juricic, meanwhile, has also been reaching out to potential private and corporate donors, and the fundraising campaign has also remained in contact with the municipalities of North Saanich and Sidney, she said.

“We will continue to have conversations with them and hope that they can contribute something as well,” she said.

Donations can be made at https://bit.ly/2HWkHgf.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com