Soccer fields at Petrolia Y just the beginning

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MIG Engineering's concept of the grounds of the Petrolia Y.

No cost estimate for four-phase backyard plan 

We’re getting the first look at the first phase of a multi-year plan to build an extensive recreational complex at the Petrolia Y.

For the first time, staff brought a report and concept plan to council for the YMCA Community Backyard Project. 

It is a project which was not formally endorsed by council before staff applied for and received a $699,999 federal grant committing the municipality to over $233,000 to complete the $932,000 worth of additions to the Y property. 

There had been a brief description of what the grant money was meant to build, however town staff hand never presented the plan for the area. The development of a concept and the plan itself had not received the endorsement of council at a public meeting.

Dave Menzies, director of facilities and community services, in a report to council outlined the project already underway.  It includes two full-sized soccer pitches, an addition to the Y building for a yoga and cycling studio, an outdoor, seasonal washroom with a concession stand, two picnic areas with pergolas and an outdoor fitness area. 

The project also includes additional paved parking for 110 cars, sidewalks, crossing areas and lighting and outdoor security cameras to deter vandals.

But that won’t be the end of construction at the Y. 

Included in the council package Monday was a study completed by MIG Engineering on what will be a four-phase plan to build a multi-phased recreational complex.

According to MIG’s report, the engineering firm was hired in 2021 by the town to prepare the concept plan. 

“Given the large scope and cost of the project, it is proposed that the YMCA Community Backyard Project be divided into four phases,” the report states.

The next three phases according to MIG’s plan include:

• A community vegetable garden.

• A raised bed memorial flower garden with dedicated stepping stone plaques and benches.

• A splash pad area adjacent to the washroom facilities and the existing playground area.

• A wooded/treed walking area with winding paths and benches.

• Additional playground area adjacent to the existing playground.

• A fenced ball and field hockey net area.

• A fenced multi-use sports court sized for basketball, badminton and volleyball.

• Two fenced tennis courts that may be converted for use as two pickleball courts.

• Open space for community events and/or future development.

• Various additional parking facilities.

• Additional gardens and treed areas.

• Other amenities include paved sidewalks and walkways, benches, bike racks, and security lighting and cameras in select locations. 

Around the council table, there was little discussion about the plan. Menzies presented the report saying only residents and councillors could see the new soccer fields already under construction.

“I think it is great news for the town and it is going to be really nice when we get this done,” said Mayor Brad Loosley.

Councillor Wade Deighton asked what the entire plan will cost. “We don’t have an exact estimate,” said Menzies citing the “supply chain has broken parts and pieces are missing” as a reason for the lack of an estimate for the project.

“So, anything going forward – tender process (coming) back to council; engineering reports for each part of the phases and the budgeting process.

“So right now, no exact number but everybody will be informed of those decisions as they go,” Menzies added.

While there is not an official cost estimate, the development won’t be cheap. 

Recently, service clubs and parents have raised money for park equipment which ranged anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000. The price tag for two tennis courts according to online sources will be about $200,000. A multi-purpose sports court could top $125,000.

Add in the cost of fencing each of the amenities and the dollars start to accumulate. 

It’s also not clear if the municipality has a firm commitment to build a splash pad at no cost to the taxpayers.

In 2021, the Petrolia Kiwanis Club presented a plan for a $150,000 splash pad which was endorsed by the community services committee. But the future of that project isn’t clear. 

Rick Charlebois, CAO of Petrolia, tells The Independent the town had discussions with the Kiwanis Club about the splash pad and the town’s costs for water “caused them to pause” and rethink whether the new service club could afford the ongoing costs of the splash pad.

The idea of an outdoor recreational concept around the Y is not a new one. In 2017, staff asked council to commit $64,000 to, in part, develop the concept. At the time, Charlebois estimated the cost of the redevelopment would be about $1.7 million.

But the idea faced some backlash with then mayor, John McCharles, admitting the concept was “a dream” of some members of the community but might need public input “to see what the public wants and what the public can afford.”

The money for the concept plan was removed from the budget at that time and public input sessions for the grounds surrounding the Y building were never held. 

The town did complete a recreation master plan in 2020. The study’s main finding was that people wanted more walking trails.

It also concluded residents wanted more neighbourhood parks near residential areas. The Y property is on Tank Street which is surrounded by commercial and industrial development and seniors’ housing.

And the Backyard Plan is not the only concept for the use of the land around the Y. Petrolia’s Matt Mueller proposed a tennis academy be built at the site. 

In 2019, he suggested a $2.2 million facility which would have three tennis/pickleball courts, as well the possibility of hosting soccer, a computer generated golf driving range and a running/walking/wheelchair accessible track. The facility would be linked with a sports program for young tennis stars who would go to school at LCCVI and practice at the facility.

Council approve the concept in principle and allowed Mueller to move ahead with fundraising. Town staff are looking for an update on the project noting in a report that if the project isn’t going ahead the funds committed to it will go to town recreation projects.

Meantime, council Monday endorsed the new plan without that information and committed to moving forward with a phased in approach for the project.