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Campaign to replace North Saanich running track approaching finish line

Campaign needs another $100,000 to replace aging track at Parkland Secondary School
Local realtor Chace Whitson is among the local business leaders helping to raise funds for the replacement of the track at Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich. Whitson has been using the track since his youth. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

If the fundraising campaign to replace the track at North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School were a race, it would be coming down the stretch with the finish line visible.

Brad Edgett, executive director of the Memorial Park Society, said fundraising efforts so far have yielded just under $502,256 with another $100,000 needed. “We have a number of grant applications out,” he said, including to the provincial and federal governments. “We just received a grant from Peninsula Co-op for $20,000 (as well as donations) from individuals and businesses.”

Edgett expects the society will meet its fundraising goal by the end of March, with partners on the project including the Memorial Park Society overseeing the Mary Winspear Centre as well as Blue Heron Park, Parkland Secondary School, which leases the land on which the track lies from the society through School District 63, the Town of Sidney, the District of North Saanich and the Peninsula Track and Field Club.

Jason Reid, secretary-treasurer for SD63, told Black Press Media that the figure includes $300,000 from the school district.

“Assuming we have the funding, our plan is to commence the track replacement in the summer and complete in the fall,” Reid said later, adding that timelines depend on the availability of contractors.

Plans call for a six-laned, rubberized track that should last about 10 to 12 years to replace the current track installed in 1986. “Once we raise funds, School District 63 will manage the project,” said Edgett.

Overall, Edgett described the level of support from the community as amazing. “We are so thankful of all the community members, who have donated time, money and effort into the project,” he said. “Every dollar has helped. We have had people, who have donated $25 and people who have donated $25,000. It has been a wonderful community effort. The community has really gotten behind it.”

RELATED: Fundraising campaign to replace North Saanich track off to the races

One of those individuals is local realtor Chace Whitson, who has been running on the track as a sprinter and medium-distance runner with Peninsula Track and Field Club since his middle-school days. I have used this track up until now,” he said. “I went to Parkland (Secondary School), so I used it throughout high school and as I was going through post-secondary.” Whitson also taught each of his three children how to ride their respective bicycles on the track.

“So it has been really great for my family,” he said. “I will come here and work out and the kids will ride around on their bikes or play. It’s a nice place for us to come and it’s great for the community.”

It was this personal history that inspired Whitson to tap into his professional network to help with the fundraising after reaching out to Edgett and Parkland principal Lizanne Chicanot. “I told them that I would like to get involved,” he said. He then shared the rationale behind the campaign including his own personal story with his network. “They were all very receptive and supportive,” he said.

Donations have come in the form of money and in-kind. “We are now in the short strokes of completing the fundraising, but we have another push yet to go and we are looking for the community’s support.”

The fundraising campaign said on its website that a new track would improve access to athletics, thereby helping students as well community members at large.

“It will help with the mental health of everyone in the community,” said Edgett “The track will be used on a regular basis by the Peninsula Track Club, by neighbours of the school. The hope is that we could get some small meets there as well.”

Reid echoed this point. “The track is an opportunity to enhance athletic and academic programs for students at Parkland and throughout the Saanich School District,” he said. “It is also an opportunity to build an important community asset that will enhance health and wellness opportunities for everyone in the community.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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