Council fails youth again

It’s far too early to judge where the current Nelson city council will rate in the historical importance of this community.

It’s far too early to judge where the current Nelson city council will rate in the historical importance of this community. So many of their “good work” accomplishments are in long-term planning and reports that will not be fully understood for some time. Though the upsides are hazy, one of this council’s failings is quite evident when you take a look at its commitment to youth.

This council came to power with the outdoor skatepark a victim of political foot-dragging. Though some councillors talked about the importance of stepping up efforts to make this important venue reality, three years have passed and skateboarders are still without a park. Though some work has been done — finally a suitable location has been found — this council can hardly be given credit for commitment to this amenity.

When it comes to youth and recreation in this community, this group lacks urgency. Kids continue to grow up while this crop of politicians labours over consultation and reports. Though planning is important, it’s little consolation when a child has passed three grades with nothing really coming out of city hall.

For its curtain call, council has once again shown its indifference towards youth with the roadblocks it has thrown up over the Lions Park baseball diamond upgrades. Instead of embracing and congratulating a core group of volunteers who want to improve our facilities, some members of council want to slow down a plan that’s a no-brainer.

Before I go any further, full disclosure. I have two kids who are involved in sports. I have coached baseball and soccer at Lions Park for many years. I have skated on the outdoor rink, pushed my kids on the swings, watched them run through the sprinkler park, thrown a ball to my dog and played basketball on the courts. Though I have no active role in the planning for the baseball park upgrades, I have a strong self-interest in making that park a better facility for everybody.

The current state of the baseball diamond at Lions Park is sadly inadequate and even dangerous for the little kids who are taking their first swings in the sport. From the infield to the dugouts to the water fountain, it’s frankly an embarrassment.

Though some councillors seemed surprised by the latest plan, improving the baseball facility at Lions Park is nothing new. I’ve covered council for almost two decades and remember being a cub reporter when it was first presented in council chambers more than 15 years ago. Though it has changed in scope, the need to make the park better is old news.

The current plan put together by the volunteer Nelson Baseball Association has been done in consultation with Nelson Lions Club members. It’s modest, would be cost neutral to taxpayers and would make a tremendous difference to the kids who play at that park.

Yet, some councillors continue to slow the process and frustrate hard working community members who give their time freely to improving youth sport.

At Monday night’s council meeting, members of the baseball association were given the opportunity to provide more detail on the plan they hoped would get started this autumn. Council also heard from some neighbours who feel they were not consulted enough about the upgrades. At the meeting some council members expressed thoughts about more consultation with neighbours.

That’s absurd. Though public input is important in most cases, opening up this issue to the community is completely unnecessary.

The concerns smack of NIMBYism at its worst. According to the association, baseball wants to increase usage from about six hours a week to 10 hours a week during a baseball season that lasts roughly three months. Some neighbours are concerned about it being too baseball-exclusive. Seriously? Increasing an activity in a public park by 48 hours a year is somehow turning the tide of usage towards one group? That’s simply ridiculous.

Not too many years ago — before the field fell into such a horrible state — that park was used heavily by all kinds of sports groups. I remember hanging out there Saturday mornings while my kids played U6 mini soccer. The surrounding streets were jammed with cars. Not too long ago I played adult slo-pitch on that field where my team would linger into the darkness while we socialized after each game.

Lions Park has been an important Uphill amenity for a long time, well before most of the neighbours moved in. Those who bought houses near the park must have known they were moving next to a public space. Complaints about usage and traffic is not a concern council needs to consider.

The issue has now been referred back to staff for review. Though the recommendation shows signs of promise, this council’s track record of dropping the ball when it comes to youth shouldn’t make anyone hold their breath.

Studies, consultation and planning are vital to a community’s long-term health, but there comes a point when action speaks louder than words.


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