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Letter: It's time for Cloverdale to demand better

It was fitting that the Oct. 28 all candidates debate was in the aging Shannon Hall on the long-neglected Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

To the editor;

Sadly, it seemed fitting that the all candidates debate held in Cloverdale Oct. 28 was in the aging Shannon Hall on the long-neglected Cloverdale Fairgrounds. As a long-time resident, local teacher and undecided voter I attended to hear if any of the mayoralty and council candidates could offer a vision for Surrey in general and something more than token platitudes for Cloverdale in particular.

As a student at Surrey Centre Elementary just over 35 years ago, I fondly remember field trips to the only sheet of ice and only (outdoor) pool in our community at that time. As a teacher at Lord Tweedsmuir, I’m outraged that the same single sheet of ice and tiny outdoor Greenaway Pool remain the only places for our kids to swim or skate in Cloverdale all these decades later. Now that our local advocate and unofficial “Mayor of Cloverdale”, Bill Reid, has passed on, it’s time for ALL of us as Cloverdale residents to demand better.

Disturbingly, it’s the kids in Cloverdale who are getting short shrift in terms of recreational facilities. For example, when I taught at Clayton Heights Secondary many years ago I remember a P.R. presentation being assembled in the “Hub” of the school by an official from city hall who was unveiling a “bold new vision” for the property adjacent and just north of the school. As a rugby coach, I was naturally curious if my young “Nightriders” might finally get a field with more grass than sand and, dare to dream, one softer to land on than the school’s parking lot ? Nope. An outdoor basketball court? No chance. An ice rink?  A pool? A greasy-looking skate park even ? That would be no, nay, never… no nay never no more.

Instead, Clayton Heights students were granted the “bold new vision” of a pathetic dog park. So while Semiahmoo students have two grass rugby fields, multiple turf fields, a running track, a skate park, a fitness centre, the best ice rink in Surrey, the entire Softball City complex… and of course, an indoor pool, Clayton Heights students can watch every Rover and Fido in the neighbourhood come and take a crap on that bold new vision. And the situation is no better at Lord Tweedsmuir.

Just this spring, our school district was forced to repair the only playing field for our more than 2,000 students at a cost to local taxpayers of over $20,000 because of the wear it gets primarily from football but also from rugby and from having thousands of PE students on it because we have no other option. Meanwhile the Stetson Bowl is still only used for one weekend a year, and it’s used by animals instead of kids. Unbelievably, Surrey will soon be the largest city in B.C. and we don’t have a single grass stadium which is suitable for rugby, football and soccer. Meanwhile the Women’s World Cup of Soccer is coming and a lawsuit has been filed by the athletes who legitimately deserve a grass field instead of turf injuries.

Even worse, South Surrey will now have a SECOND indoor pool soon, conveniently located for people who often tell all their friends they’re from White Rock, except when demanding… and getting… well over $50 million from the City of Surrey. I have nothing against South Surrey of course, but attention all candidates, could Cloverdale please have ONE indoor pool before you build any more down there?

So, who sounded at the debate like they might actually do something about over four decades of neglect of Cloverdale?  Well, a few council candidates did stand out, but none more than One Surrey candidate and Bill Reid apprentice, Brian Young. More than anyone running for either council or the mayor’s chair, Brian Young was clearly passionate about this community. In fact, I wish he was running for Mayor, because the One Surrey mayoralty candidate, Barinder Rasode, virtually only talked about crime and offered “community officers” as a magic solution, a plan no criminal would fear. Also from the One Surrey team, Mike Bose clearly showed he is not just resting on his pioneer family name, but as a hockey coach in Cloverdale, genuinely seemed outraged that the Cloverdale Arena was originally designed in 1971 for two sheets of ice and 43 years later, he like everyone, is fed up with waiting.

On the Surrey First team, Councillor Bruce Hayne was clearly both knowledgeable and committed to all Cloverdale issues, including more public facilities. Again, he would probably have made a better choice  for mayor than the Surrey First candidate, Linda Hepner, who was lampooned not just for the crime issue, but for her proposal to put a giant ferris wheel in Bridgeview. However, compared to Barinder Rasode, Linda Hepner at least seemed to understand that the Fairgrounds are an important legacy to all the residents of Cloverdale and that no part of this facility should be sold to private developers just to build a trade centre. Ms. Hepner clearly would be a better choice for Cloverdale on this issue alone. Fellow Surrey First candidates Barb Steele, Judy Villeneuve and Tom Gill all were clearly deeply experienced Councillors, even if they were at times short on specifics.

On the crime issue, both Surrey First candidate, former RCMP officer, Dave Woods, and One Surrey candidate, Kal Dosanjh are experienced cops from Surrey and Vancouver respectively. Both might make decent councillors, but Cloverdale resident and former NOW Editor Beau Simpson from the Safe Surrey Coalition seemed by far the most consistent voice all night for greater openness and transparency at City Hall. Once again, council candidate Beau Simpson seemed far more credible than fellow Safe Surrey Coalition mayoralty candidate Doug McCallum, who is experienced but like Ms. Hepner and Ms. Rasode, had little to offer Cloverdale or any explanation for why all three would-be mayors have neglected its needs.

As just one voter, I will support a balanced council, as in order, Brian Young, Bruce Hayne, Beau Simpson, Mike Bose, Barb Steele, Dave Woods and Kal Dosanjh impressed me. I will also support long-time community activist Jim McMurty for council, who was absent but I know to be a strong voice for Cloverdale and a decent man above all else. For mayor, I was most impressed with independent candidate Grant Rice, whose urban planning background, understanding of the need to plan school and community facilities together as well as the need for more open government, definitely won my vote. My own choices are not important. What is, however, is that Cloverdale residents should ALL check out their local candidates online, in the community papers  or at a debate, or we have no right to expect anything more than the one sheet of ice and one outdoor pool we have now in another 35 years.

Walter Van Halst

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