North Delta Secondary teacher Gary Sandhu stands on the track outside the school. On rainy days like this one, he says the track is unusable because of poor drainage. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Delta school tracks need upgrade, says teacher

‘Why is the city not jumping at the chance to try and improve this facility?’

Walking around North Delta Secondary’s track in the rain on Nov. 21, teacher Gary Sandhu points out the faults in the aging facility.

“I wish the mayor and the councillors could come down and look at the state it’s in right now, as we sit here,” he said. “It’s just sad.”

The drainage is poor, he said, causing water to pool inches deep along the inside edge of the track. The field in the centre is boggy, and players’ feet sink into the grass. Even in nice weather, the crushed rock surface damages the gym floor when it’s brought in on students’ shoes.

“This is the state it’s been for 20 to 25 years,” Sandhu said.

Now, he has decided it’s time to take action.

Sandhu and nine others have sent letters to Delta council, imploring the city to fix the track conditions for the sake of the community.

According to a Delta Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission report dated Sept. 19 of this year, of the four Delta track facilities, the North Delta Secondary track is used the most by the community. Sitting in the P.E. office at the school, Sandhu often sees elderly people walking around the track.

“I feel sad for them, because they could literally hurt themselves using this track,” he said. “And you can see they look a little bit uncomfortable, but they keep using it because it’s the only facility that’s here.”

During the Nov. 20 council meeting, Coun. Jeannie Kanakos moved to send the letters to Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, Delta South MLA and Coun. Ian Paton, the Delta Council and Board of Education Liaison Committee, and the Delta Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission.

This isn’t the first time the state of the North Delta track has been discussed at council.

In May 2017, Delta council heard from a delegation made up of Seaquam track coach Keith Haynes, Burnsview track coach Tim Stielow and B.C. Provincial Football Association representative Cory Philpot on the need for a competitive track and field facility in Delta. The director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kuntz advised council at that time that there was no funding for that project in Delta’s five-year financial plan.

On Sept, 18, 2017, Kanakos submitted a notice of motion that sought to create a joint workshop between Delta council and the Delta School Board to discuss options and costs pertaining to tracks in Delta. The hope was to have this workshop before council’s business planning workshop. That did not happen.

In a Sept. 19 Delta parks staff report to the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission, it was advised that “there is no broadly demonstrated community need for a track and field facility and the majority of the benefit would be to the student population.”

It recommended that any track and field facility development should be undertaken by the school district, with “a substantial portion of funding coming from sources other than the Corporation of Delta.”

On Oct. 10, the school board moved to invite all levels of government to meet to discuss funding for and construction of replacement tracks in North Delta and South Delta. The motion, according to draft minutes of the meeting, was made because of the provincial government’s community initiative fund, announced during the campaign period for the provincial election.

In April, then-Delta North MLA candidate Ravi Kahlon announced a proposed $30-million investment over three years to support the creation and upgrading of sports, art and seniors facilities in B.C.

Related: BC NDP announce fund to upgrade sports fields

Kahlon, a two-time Olympic field hockey player, grew up practicing at the North Delta Secondary School track. During the announcement in April, he called the track “unusable” in bad weather, and nothing has changed since then.

“Delta has an opportunity to work with the government in a partnership to create a space where people can actually come together,” Sandhu said.

“It’s hard to ignore: if the funding is there, why is the city not jumping at the chance to try and improve this facility for the entire community?”

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