City eyes facelift for Topaz Park tennis courts

The tennis courts in Topaz Park may soon be getting a facelift.

The tennis courts in Topaz Park may soon be getting a facelift.

The three courts at the corner of Blanshard Street have been closed for the past five years for safety reasons after the ashpalt began heaving and cracking due to tree roots from surrounding trees.

A little over a month ago, the City of Victoria decided to take the more than 40-year-old tennis courts out, after determining the structure was too damaged to be repaired. Crews took off the fence and began removing the surface of the tennis court, however, a resident stopped the work, arguing the community didn’t have input on what was going to happen to them.

The city recently met with the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood action committee to get ideas from the roughly 30 residents at the meeting about what to do with the courts both in the short-term and long-term, while the city develops its parks master plan.

According to Laura Taylor, who is on the executive of the action committee, there were varying opinions about what should be done — some wanted the courts to stay closed until the parks master plan is completed, while others said they should be taken out and replaced with other amenitites.

Last summer, city staff proposed the idea of setting up a designated tenting area in Topaz Park for the homeless population, which was met with rigorous backlash from the community. As a result, Taylor said there was some concern from residents about turning the space into something that could potentially be seen as an area for tenting.

“I think there was a consensus that they want a recreational amentitiy in the park. There’s sensititivy around ‘they’re going to take it away and not give us something back’,” Taylor said. “We don’t have a lot of parks and Topaz is used for a lot of regional things. We do definitely need something for the community day to day.”

Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreations and facilitites with the city, said construction remains on hold while they develop a plan for community consultation on possible short and long-term options for the courts.

“It’s seen by a lot of folks as a destinaton. We do want to cast a wider net and get a sense of what folks are using that park for,” said Soulliere, adding they’re still working on a community engagement strategy.

“There was no intention to go in and make a significant change to an asset in the park without getting an oppountity to hear from the broad (public). The approach that was taken fast-tracked things a little too quickly for the neighbourhood. We’re happy to slow things down to make sure we have a more high-quality discussion.”

Consultation for the parks master plan will begin this summer, and a draft report will be put forward to council by the end of the year.