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'Dangerous' path in Port Coquitlam's Gates Park

Council considers ways to prevent softballs going over the fence from hitting pedestrians on a pathway that cuts between two diamonds.

Home run bombs at Gates Park are causing concern for Port Coquitlam council but so are the proposed solutions.

The city says it has received many complaints of balls coming over the outfield fence onto a pathway that cuts between two softball diamonds.

Coun. Glenn Pollock, chair of the city’s healthy community committee, said a girl was struck by a ball on the pathway a while back.

“She was OK but it raised a concern,” he said.

The city put up warning signs for park users last year and told ball teams not to hold batting practice in the direction of the outfield. But despite these measures the city continued to receive complaints.

“I was raising this concern long before I was a councillor,” said Coun. Steve Darling, who was elected last October and, as a soccer coach, is a frequent user of Gates Park. “When I was elected, I heard it even louder.

“It’s becoming an issue. In fact, so much so, people are bringing umbrellas so they don’t get hit by a ball coming over the fence.”

Although many ideas were considered, with the help of a consultant’s trajectory analysis, city staff boiled down the options to two — and both were rejected at a council in committee meeting March 5. The first would have seen safety netting on poles on the fences at an estimated cost of $625,000, based on a similar installation last year at Surrey's Newton Athletic Park.

“We didn’t want to spend $600,000 on it. It seemed like a bit of overkill,” Pollock said.

The other option — the one recommended by staff — was to take out the pathway and add fencing, landscaping and lower netting at a cost of $200,000. But council even experienced sticker shock over that one, and, said Pollock, shutting down the pathway seemed a drastic measure.

“That’s kind of ridiculous because baseball season runs three or four months a year,” said Pollock, who often takes the path from his nearby home to play field lacrosse. “We’d be pushing people around the fields instead of between them.

“We’re looking for a low-cost option… We’re trying to do the best thing we can to keep park users safe at the least cost to the taxpayers.”

Darling doesn’t want to see the path closed, either, because it’s a year-round main artery for recreational athletes, teams and seniors. He said he has seen balls fly over the left field fence of the south diamond into the parking lot as well as over the left field fence of the north diamond onto a warmup turf. Darling encouraged staff to think outside the box for an inexpensive solution that will still protect park patrons, although he admitted, “You’re never going to eliminate all the problems.”