Activist blasts 2010 priorities after Trout Lake replacement shelved

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      A community activist believes Olympic pressures have forced the planned $20-million replacement of the Trout Lake Community Centre off the table for the city’s upcoming three-year capital plan.

      According to Lew MacDonald, the Trout Lake Community Centre, located a block away from his home, was built in 1965 and has not been renovated since 1977. He told the Georgia Straight the park board has been planning to replace the aging facility since 2001, but then the 2010 Olympics came into the picture.

      In 2002, the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation initiated the Trout Lake Rink Replacement Project as an Olympic legacy project, and it has contributed $2.5 million toward the ice rink’s capital cost of $15.94 million. (Olympic hockey players will use the rink to practise during the 2010 Games, then it will become a city facility available for public use.)

      “The Olympics came along and they said, ”˜Let’s replace the rink first, because we don’t have time to replace it all,’ ” MacDonald said by phone. “Now the Olympics is here, the money has gone, and the community centre is gone. Now the park board is emphatically denying that the Olympics has anything to do with that cancellation.”

      MacDonald pointed out that the May 27 city staff report on the draft capital plan for 2009–2111—issued by city financial planning and treasury director Ken Bayne—includes a section on why the Trout Lake Community Centre is not included, even though it has been in the pipeline for seven years.

      “The staff review group notes that it was unable to fund the replacement of Trout Lake Community Centre ($20 million) within the financial limit provided by council,” the report states. “It was the view of the group that recent capital plans had provided significant funding for building renewal, and that higher priority—albeit less publicly visible projects—should be addressed in the 2009-2011 Capital Plan.”

      Added MacDonald: “The staff have just said in their own report that they are not funding the community centre because they have just spent all the money on the rink.”

      MacDonald made these views clear when he addressed park board commissioners at the June 23 board meeting at the Trout Lake Community Centre.

      When the Straight asked NPA park board chair Korina Houghton if she believed that the Olympics and subsequent rink construction caused the scrubbing of the Trout Lake Community Centre from the draft plan, she answered: “No, not at all.”

      “I guess it kind of depends on the spin that you put on it, because that rink was needed as well,” Houghton added. “Those are capital items that we had identified anyhow. The fact that the Olympics came along, yes, they [Olympic projects] were certainly bumped up in the sequence of construction.”¦I guess you could interpret it that because of the Olympics we are not getting the community centre, but I feel that might be their opinion, but my opinion is we need these anyways. So, yes, their construction schedule was sped up a little bit, but they are facilities that are needed by the city.”

      Houghton said consultations begin in September that will determine the makeup of the final draft of the capital plan.