By LADYSMITH MAYOR ROB HUTCHINS
Building a Community – Vision, Tenacity, Hard Work, Compassion, and Grants
When I reflect on 2010, I salute with admiration the citizens of our community who have worked so tirelessly to help build some exciting new facilities in our Town.
At the north end of 4th Avenue you will find, near completion, the first phase ($3.2 million) of a multi-purpose sports park. The vision for such a facility, at that location, was first shared some 17 years ago. A boundary expansion, withdrawal from the Forest Land Reserve, land negotiations and acquisition, and rezoning of the 23 acre parcel took some seven years to complete. In 2002, plans were then developed: “The Field of Dreams” they were called, as the accompanying price tag at that time was in excess of $7 million. As BC was in the midst of an economic recession, the plans had to be put on hold until the right ingredients were in place to allow us to proceed.
A catalyst for change and (finally) development on Lot 108 came in two forms – a nearby housing development (shared cost of infrastructure) and most importantly in the form of a “Sad News/Good News Story.”
In early 2009, the residents (38 families) of Ivy Green Mobile Home Park received eviction notices. That set into place a series of events that would see The Town of Ladysmith become (it is my understanding) the first community in North America to help facilitate the collective move of such homes.
The question was, “Would we give up a portion of our ‘Field of Dreams’ to provide a site for the construction of a new mobile home park?” Although the sacrifice was some 11 acres of parkland at Lot 108, the members of Town Council, Town staff, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Field Users Group, the Executive of the Ladysmith Golf Course, and those citizens who took part in the public hearing on the rezoning of the parkland unanimously agreed that it was the right thing to do. No one was to be left homeless.
In early 2010, we were fortunate and we are so grateful that David Stalker, Jag Basi, and Chris Kaelble were willing to step forward and take on the challenge of creating the new mobile home park.
But the first phase of the sports fields at Lot 108 was still underfunded. The Provincial Government agreed to allow the Town to redirect our “Towns for Tomorrow Grant” of $375,000 for Aggie Field to the new site at Lot 108. The Federal Government, through the advocacy of Island Government representatives who recognized the multi-faceted benefits of our vision, generously agreed to provide a $1 million grant.
2011 will be a year of celebration. Behind the celebration are years of hard work, tenacity, compassion, and generosity. We do live in a most wonderful place.