Letters: Question handling of bike park proposal

Letter writer wonders how local bike club can afford to build park

Like many others, we also are frustrated at how the entire bike skills park proposal for John Philips Memorial Park (JPMP) has been handled and question if there is something more going on. It has been over a year since the newly formed council heard the presentation from Sooke Slow Food Cycle (SSFC), supported by other “grassroots” groups, in particular a partnership between SSFC, Juan de Fuca Cycling Coalition and Sooke Bike Club (SBC). Residents need to see the building and financial plans from Alpine Parks (paid for by taxpayers) before the upcoming public meeting. Hopefully at this meeting, the public will finally get some answers to all the unanswered questions as well as clarification.

We are not against a bike skills park but we do not agree on John Phillips Memorial Park (JPMP) for the location. We wonder how many new Sooke residents (or even older ones) don’t even know where JPMP is. Why has there never been any signage erected to identify it as such? Is everyone aware how large the 1.8 hectare area is that the SBC proposes to develop the bike park on? The pond and area south of the trails will be what is left for other public uses. Look up bike skills parks online if you do not know what they look like. Keep in mind that it is now to be built in phases over five years. The conceptual drawing from 2006 that council voted on showing one slalom trail is nothing like what has evolved. Bike parks are not built in residential areas for a reason and JPMP is surrounded by residences immediately on the park and surrounding areas. What about access to the area and parking? Drainage is and will be an issue. No concern has been given as to environmental impact.

Why were no other locations looked at, in particular the existing bike park located at SEAPARC, designed and built in 2006 by SBC and Jay Hoots (renowned bike park builder) with public donations and volunteers? Why did the SBC not talk to this builder to help make it usable again? SEAPARC is open to discussion. Does it not make sense to utilize what is already there rather than spend $300,000 starting from scratch?

JPMP is a large public green space and park for everyone to use and any major decision as to what goes into it should be made by taxpayers. Of the two councillors who were appointed to act as liaisons between the council and SBC, one during the last election wanted to sell off most of the JPMP! Agreed that it could use some improvements and tidying up. Was this not voted on by past council to be done? Other towns would be envious to have such an area in the centre of town to work with. It could be a more beautiful area if developed slowly and thoughtfully, perhaps using a qualified landscape architect. Tax dollars already spent on this project could have been put towards some benches along the trails or the start of a play area for young children or maybe a trail around the perimeter or work done on the pond to make it more attractive.

We realize that tourism is an important asset to Sooke and mountain biking is a popular sport, but why has the council so strongly focused on and promoted this one sport? There are many other sports, cultural events and attractions in and around Sooke to attract tourists and improve the economy.

Taxpayers expect unbiased behaviour, fairness and openness in addition to fiscal responsibility from our elected officials who were elected to look out for all of Sooke. Staff should not be spending time writing grants for any outside organization. Decisions that affect the future of Sooke and its park space should be made by residents and taxpayers of Sooke without influence or sway from sources outside of Sooke. Councils may come and go but once the green space in the centre of Sooke is gone – it’s gone. We need to treasure it and protect it.

Larry and Jeanette Umbach

Sooke