Council narrows its Maple Ridge rec to-do list

Staff looking at costs for two new fields, ice sheet, Albion centre

Maple Ridge council is shelving, for now, its multi-million-dollar plan to build an aquatic centre, curling club, sports stadium and civic and cultural centre.

Instead, it’s asking staff to crunch the numbers for a more modest to-do list: building the Albion community centre, two new artificial sports fields at Thomas Haney secondary and adding a sheet of ice to Planet Ice.

“This happens because we have to go really quickly, if we’re going to get the money to do the fields and the leisure centre renos, which we need to do,” said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw.

“That gives us some breathing room to go through the rest of this process properly.”

Maple Ridge last fall started a six-month consultation process, asking residents and sports groups what they thought of building a $70-million aquatic centre, a $30-million sports stadium and a $40-million civic and cultural centre and museum.

But preliminary results presented recently from a consultant show that most residents want the city to focus on adding sports fields and improving existing facilities.

As a result, council has shelved the pricier projects for the time being, and before the final report from the consultant.

“I think we need to come up with real long-term plan… for when things are going to get built in the parks and rec plan.”

Some on council want everything built right away, Shymkiw said.

“I don’t think that’s what we’ve heard from taxpayers. They want us to use our money wisely. They want us to expand existing facilities where possible.”

Council on Tuesday first considered borrowing $10 million to help pay for the two artificial fields at Thomas Haney secondary and to build the new community centre in Albion on 104th Avenue. The Albion community hall location will be shared with a new elementary school announced by the outgoing Liberal provincial government.

Two other artificial sports fields, one at Merkley Park and another at Golden Ears elementary, have already been funded.

The fields and community centre could be paid for by a property tax increase of 0.4 per cent for a five-year period, meaning by the end of the five years, an average homeowner would be paying another $40 a year.

But Shymkiw proposed adding an ice sheet to Planet Ice, which could add $25 million to the cost. Staff will get back to council with the final numbers in a few weeks. Council will then decide if it wants to proceed and put the borrowing to the public via the alternative approval process in which 10 per cent of voters are required to defeat a proposal.

By also adding a new ice sheet, all user groups, soccer, hockey, baseball and swimming, would be covered, Shymkiw said.

The city has already budgeted a $7.5-million renovation to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre swimming complex. Work on that starts late this year. Council is also asking staff for a report on building an outdoor pool.

“If we can move on this, this gives us some breathing room, because it takes some of the dire need that our groups are feeling and address it.”

Then council can take a longer look at the other projects, Shymkiw added.

Coun. Bob Masse supported council’s decision. Lots of information has come in from the community and user groups.

“The support for fields is so strong and broad, across the process, across all the user groups,” he said.

Everything council now wants to do represents the input of the community, he added.

He acknowledged the city could be accused of shortcutting the process by not waiting for the final consultant’s report about public opinion on the entire recreation upgrade process.

But continuing with the full process would mean another year before the artificial fields get built, he said.

“The next step is to take it to the public with a price tag … and make sure in fact, that the public do want it.”

But people could say the city should wait until consultation and decisions on all facilities is complete.

“I think more people would say, get the stuff the stuff we want …

“We could wait til we get the perfect plan before we do anything.”

Staff will report back in a few weeks.

Maple Ridge News