Port Coquitlam OKs Gates Park solution

Council approves $75,000 three-pronged approach to prevent balls from hitting park patrons

Port Coquitlam city staff had already taken two swing and misses with council in finding a solution to prevent Gates Park patrons from being struck by softballs flying over the fences of two fields when they finally hit a home run, at least in the eyes of council, Tuesday. 

The city hopes the three-pronged $75,000 plan will solve the problem and came at a cost council was willing to live with.

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The city will install netting above a portion of a path that cuts between the outfield fences of the two fields at a estimated cost of $40,000. A 30-foot high net costing $30,000 will be built to prevent balls from reaching a multi-purpose field just beyond the left field fence of one of the diamonds. The final $5,000 will go toward planting five or six trees between the other field and an adjacent parking lot.

In March, in response to many complaints — including an incident in which a girl was struck by a ball — and concerns from the city’s insurers, staff proposed two options.

One would have seen safety netting on poles on the outfield fences with an estimated cost of $625,000. At that time, Coun. Glenn Pollock called that idea “overkill.” The other option was to remove the path and add fencing, landscaping and it came with a price tag of $200,000. That caused sticker shock for council, too.

Gate Park path
The path that cuts between the two ball fields at Gates Park in Port Coquitlam. - Google Street View

A couple of weeks later, staff tried again presenting another two options. But council wasn’t willing to buy them either. They were, however, sold on the solution given to them Tuesday.

“From where we’re at today, from a couple of hundred grand we’re getting there to improving it,” said Coun. Darrell Penner. “In retrospect, why didn’t we think of this in the first place.”

Coun. Steve Darling coaches soccer at Gates and had seen balls fly over the fence and heard many complaints about it before and after he got elected last November.

“This is a great first start for this. The biggest thing initially was the cars getting hit,” said Darling. “Going out and standing there and seeing it with staff made a huge difference because it gave us an idea of what we were dealing with.”

Darling added the trees will be a natural block and the netting was “the perfect scenario for the budget we had.”

Pollock, who chairs the city’s sports and recreation committee, had said in March that as a frequent field lacrosse user of the multi-purpose pitch he had never seen a ball end up there. But since then, he admitted Tuesday, he had heard otherwise. “I was attacked by a number of moms … I stand corrected.”

ggranger@tricitynews.com

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