Saanich residents living near the George Tripp BC Hydro Substation are concerned the youth bike park planned for the lot will do more harm than good.
In October 2019, residents received a letter from municipal staff announcing council had approved capital funding for the construction of a youth park at the George Tripp Hydro Sub-Station, said resident Jim Quinn.
“How could it be that this was the first I had heard?” he asked in a letter to council in December voicing opposition to the park.
The youth park was idealized in the 2016 Youth Development Strategy and in mid-2019, council approved $166,700 in funding through the 2019-2023 Financial Plan. Last June, Coun. Ned Taylor, chair of Saanich’s parks, trails and recreation advisory committee, said the youth bike park would fulfill an unmet need as was evident by the illegal jumps created by cyclists in Haro Woods. Most recently, council approved a request to consider an additional $100,000 in funding for the park in the 2020 budget deliberations.
After a North Quadra Community Association (NQCA) meeting in November, it became clear to Quinn that others agreed there should have been community consultation prior to moving forward with the park. Municipal staff attended the meeting but he didn’t feel heard.
Residents have a number of concerns about the youth park – from traffic and insufficient parking to noise and vandalism to safety and security, said NQCA president Haji Charania.
Sigrune Fricke lives across from the substation lot and says the space has been a source of problems for years and she doesn’t expect a youth park to make things better. She contacted police about overnight campers and after-hours noise. She’s also noticed littering and graffiti in the empty lot and is worried a youth park will attract more of this to the area.
Resident Robert Kobenter says he isn’t opposed to the use of the field but is concerned about the target demographic and wishes there had been more transparency and engagement with residents as he’s still unclear on the work plan.
The District conducted a 46-question online survey from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31, 2019 to allow residents to provide input in the park, but some residents said they were unaware of the survey and therefore weren’t able to contribute.
In a written statement sent to Black Press Media on March 18, Taylor explained that the youth bike park is “a critical component of [Saanich’s] 2016 Youth Development Strategy.”
He emphasized that residents indicated there is a desire for more recreational biking facilities and that encouraging young people to get active is important. Taylor added that Saanich was lucky to secure the BC Hydro property as the lease is just one dollar every five years and the park is located close to the Lochside Regional Trail.
“We will work with the [NQCA] and the local residents to ensure that their concerns are addressed,” he wrote. “We want to make sure that this project works for everyone, and I think in the end this will be a valuable asset to the community as a whole.”
Taylor did not say when further consultation with residents would take place. If the District’s timeline remains on track, construction is to begin this summer.
–With files from Wolfgang Depner