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Waterfront sports field, new Sea Cadets site approved by Barrie council

'It’s sad that it has become us against them,' deputy mayor says of controversial project along Barrie's southern shore
The Barrie council chambers were standing room only on Wednesday night.

Barrie’s south shore will get a new multi-purpose, youth sports field and parade ground east of Military Heritage Park, along Lakeshore Drive, and an addition to the Southshore Community Centre for the Sea Cadets’ new home.

After hours of deputations from residents and politicians’ discussion, city council essentially approved the two projects late Wednesday night.

“It isn’t a place that disrupts community, but finds community,” Mayor Alex Nuttall said of the field.

“It’s something a growing city like ours needs,” Coun. Clare Riepma also said of the field.

“It’s actually allowing people to go and enjoy an elite field, and our gem (Barrie’s waterfront),” said Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson. “It’s sad that it has become us against them.”

“This started out as a parade ground,” said Coun. Gary Harvey. “The best use … was to create a sports field.”

The synthetic turf sports field/parade grounds would measure 100-by-154 metres in size, with the Southshore addition being 600 square metres. They carry a combined cost of more than $9 million to build.

Only Couns. Jim Harris and Amy Courser voted against the sports field and its location.

Harris, who represents this part of Barrie, said Ward 8 residents support a sports field, just not there.

“Can we find a different place? The residents of Ward 8 are in favour of leaving this a natural state," he said. 

Courser tried to defer the field project for more public consultation, but her motion lost.

“I don’t see the importance of having a field,” she said. “It’s a naturalized area and should remain a naturalized area.”

Twenty-seven people made deputations on both sides of the debate during about two and a half hours. Most were satisfied with moving the Sea Cadets to the Southshore Centre, but it was the field which generated the most options.

Will Devellis, president of the Barrie Soccer Club, which has about 4,000 members, said there is a need for the field.

“We do not have enough all-weather fields in the city. There is not enough field time for all of our youths,” he said. “If you build it, they will come.”

Trish Young wanted to know about the bottom line.

“How do you justify spending this money?” she asked. “Where did the money come from? What is not being funded because of this project?”

Cherin Harris-Tuck, speaking for the Minet’s Point Residents Community, asked a basic question.

“Tonight we have not heard why this is the only location,” she said. “All the alternatives need to be investigated before we tackle this natural environment.”

Arnie Ivsins, who lives in the Allandale area, has long argued there was not enough notice or consultation with residents about the field project.

“Short timeline? What’s the rush?” he asked. “I am not a conspiracy theorist, more of a ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ kind of guy. Simply put, council didn’t, nor wanted to undertake, any consultations with citizens because you didn’t want us to know, knowing it would have been rejected almost unanimously by city residents.”

Barrie resident Tracy Daniels Strohm says the Southshore Centre and its accompanying property were acquired in a land swap between the city and CN Rail in the late 1980s.

Strohm says she was co-chair of the city’s recreation advisory committee, which negotiated the deal with CN.

“Part of the negotiation involved the preservation of the former track/train parking area that CN had begun to naturalize, to be a good corporate citizen and to seal the layers of potential industrial waste from the trains,” she wrote to BradfordToday and InnisfilToday affiliate BarrieToday. “The spirit of the agreement was that the area was to remain an oasis to allow for the regeneration of a naturalized area.”

Strohm wrote that she is probably the last person alive who remembers the negotiations and the statement that the agreement was a trust between two parties — CN and the city — to carry out the essence of the deal’s intent. 

“Don’t disturb the soil. It is sealed,” she wrote. “Are we a city that reneges on a promise when we think no one is looking?”

City officials were asked by BarrieToday if the City of Barrie has any information to suggest there is any level of contamination on or in the land proposed for the synthetic multi-purpose youth sports field and parade grounds east of Military Heritage Park, along Lakeshore Drive.

BarrieToday also asked if this a brownfield site and/or is this site "sealed" in any way to protect anything which lies beneath the surface. 

“The area proposed is not identified (by the city) as a known contaminated site,” said Michelle Banfield, the city’s executive director of development services.

The province defines brownfield properties as vacant or under-utilized places where past industrial or commercial activities may have left behind contamination, such as chemical pollution. These properties include factories, gas stations and waterfront properties (port lands) formerly used for industrial or commercial activities.

Strohm also said a field surface isn’t ideal for parade grounds, that artificial turf slowly degrades and this microplastic would directly enter the lake and be accessible to local wildlife.

BarrieToday was sent a letter to Harris and city council, by Patrick Gonzalez, a forest ecologist and climate change scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. When visiting family who live in the Minet’s Point neighbourhood, Gonzalez said he has spent time in the forest in Allandale Station Park. And a few days ago, his relatives told him of the proposed artificial turf field.

“By cutting down part of the park forest and replacing it with an artificial turf field, scientific information indicates that the proposed project would reduce natural forest and the natural quality of an area that provides for the health and well-being of the people of Barrie,” he wrote in the letter.

“Based on this scientific information, I recommend that city council ask staff to find an alternative site and deny the current ‘Premium Synthetic Turf Multi-Use Sports Field Concept,'” Gonzalez wrote. “Finding a site that does not require cutting and replanting trees would also reduce costs to the people of Barrie. An optimal solution would provide a new soccer field for youth and protect natural forest.”

There is a petition to ‘say no to developing a multi-use sports field and parade grounds at the south shore and Allandale Park,' with 2,734 signatures as of Wednesday evening. 

There is also a petition that the ‘Navy League Barrie petitions the City of Barrie for a multi-use facility on Kempenfelt Bay’ with 2,044 signatures, again as of Wednesday evening.

The proposed multi-purpose sports field for youths and parade ground for the Sea Cadets would be located east of Military Heritage Park, a field for soccer, rugby, football and lacrosse. There would also be amenities such as lighting, benches and site furnishings. 

This property is zoned and designated open space (OS), which permits the development of a multi-purpose sports field. Accessory uses permitted in OS zoning include bleachers, a club house, concession stand, refreshment pavilion or booth. Parking is also permitted within OS zoning. A paved asphalt 35-stall parking lot is proposed for the sports field.

The project includes a premium synthetic turf, multi-purpose sports field concept, and is estimated to cost $4.6 million. The funding would come from three city reserves — development charges, tax capital and cash-in-lieu-of parkland.

From the date of project approval by council to project completion, the proposed sports field project requires a minimum of 16 months to build, including the winter season.

The Sea Cadets, long located near the Spirit Catcher, would move to a 600-square-metre addition to the Southshore Centre, a northerly extension to the basement of the existing building. It comes with a $4.55-million price tag.

At this point, $300,000 would be committed for the addition’s plan and design. City staff would report back to councillors for future construction funding approval, once costing is refined through the design process.

Navy League branch president Diane Chislett has said the Sea Cadets have been looking for a new facility for about 40 years, and the multi-purpose field would allow parades outside by the military park, and outdoor graduations.

An addition to the north side of the Southshore building would also result in an expanded upper patio area. This could be a significant benefit to the rental space on the upper floor, as weddings and other events would have the added use of a large patio, with the backdrop of Kempenfelt Bay.

The location for the proposed addition is approximately five metres above the lake elevation. The increased slope to be introduced between the proposed Southshore expansion and Kempenfelt Bay is significant, according to city staff, and the detailed design will need to accommodate lake access and the transportation of boats between the lake and the building.

The Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club, and the Barrie Rowing Club, each occupy space on the lower level of the Southshore Centre, with access to Kempenfelt Bay on the north side of the building. The space is primarily utilized as storage for canoes, kayaks and boats. A floating dock, which is shared between the two groups, is accessed by an asphalt path.

The Rotary Club of Barrie and the Rotary Club of Barrie Huronia occupy the upper level on the south side of the community centre for their regular meetings.

This space is primarily utilized to host a variety of community events, social functions and organization meetings.