Letter to the Editor: Turner Park could be home to kids’ soccer, Little League & slopitch here in Peachland

The Director of Community Services said that earlier this year the Parks Department had restored the fields irrigation system and onsite washrooms and made some safety upgrades to the playground at Turner Park . The Director also said, “We had a ball field up there for years and there is no reason why one ball field cannot be restored for use in 2022 within our operating budget.” 

So let’s do it. And then let’s restart the Peachland Little league which was popular there 20 years ago along with a Peachland Youth Soccer club.

Because Turner Park is wide enough and long enough for a regulation soccer field in the baseball outfield.

Recent research, provided by a user group in Summerland, of Sports Amenities in BC Municipalities with populations of 5,000-15,000, shows that BC Municipalities of this size, have on average, 6 baseball/softball fields and 5 soccer fields 

Peachland, with a population of 5400, has only one softball field at Cousins Park and no regulation sized
soccer field. With a growing population and new housing, including that in the area bordering Turner Park, there is no doubt that Peachland is currently underrepresented in terms of adequate field sport facilities.

As mentioned by the consultant in their September presentation, Turner Park represents the last available flat field park space in Peachland. 

It is the only park in Peachland that can accommodate both a regulation soccer field (150 feet x 300 feet) and a regulation slo-pitch/baseball little league field (275 feet field length). Cousins cannot.

So if there is no baseball and soccer field provided at Turner Park, Peachland will never have the opportunity to increase the number of baseball fields and soccer fields in the community, with the direct result that Peachland children will never again have the opportunity to play on Peachland community baseball and soccer teams.

It has bothered me for years that Peachland children cannot play together on Peachland community baseball and soccer teams.  We have, over the last 5 years, taught well over 250 4–6-year old Peachland boys and girls how to play baseball and soccer at the Peachland Community Centre. There is a steady demand with the Mini Kickers soccer program being full up and having a wait list each quarter.

But every one of those Peachland children has to go to West Kelowna or Summerland to play league baseball and soccer at the age of 6. That is simply not right. And West Kelowna’s youth soccer program will not put Peachland kids together on a Peachland team. I know since I also coach soccer in West Kelowna.
Putting Peachland children together on Peachland community teams, though, isn’t West Kelowna’s job.
As a community, that is our job.
Peachland kids should have the opportunity to play on Peachland teams on Peachland fields.

My wife Allie and I have measured both Turner and Cousins parks a number of times, as well as the baseball/softball fields in neighbouring Summerland for reference. We’ve also redone the Turner Park measurements with a number of interested Peachland residents and civic officials.

There is absolutely no doubt there is space at Turner Park for a full size regulation soccer field in the baseball outfield. And that this soccer field will not intrude upon the sloped area of the park used by families for a children’s toboggan run in the winter

 I sent this information in a presentation to both Peachland Recreation and, at their request, to the outside consultant group in October, shortly after their first presentation on Turner Park to Council.

Both Peachland Recreation and the Consultant group have been receptive, and my understanding is that one forthcoming option will be to have a full sized soccer field and a baseball/softball field at Turner Park.  Please vote for it in the upcoming public consultation.

Prior to moving to Peachland 6 years ago, I coached youth soccer in Vancouver for 24 years, little league and softball for 7 years, was president of the 2nd largest youth soccer club in Vancouver for 6 years and on the Board of Directors for Vancouver Youth Soccer (VYSA) for 5 years. Part of my job at VYSA was to liaise with Vancouver Parks to obtain and improve Vancouver soccer fields. So I do have some relevant background.

Since moving here, with like minded Peachland adults, we have taught introduction to soccer and baseball programs for 4-6 old Peachland boys and girls at the Community Centre for the past 5 years.  I’ve also coached in neighbouring West Kelowna’s Westside youth soccer for 4 years and played on Peachland.s senior coed slo pitch team for the past 5 years. So I do have some knowledge of the soccer and baseball/slopitch fields in our neighbouring communities.

When I saw the initial Turner Park Presentation to Council in September offered a baseball/softball option, but did not mention there was space in the outfield for a regulation soccer field. I decided to pitch in and get involved.

As anyone who has been involved in youth soccer or little league knows, putting baseball/softball fields next to soccer fields is done all the time in the Greater Vancouver area. If a grass field is long enough and wide enough you have both a soccer field and ball diamond on it.  Obviously, you can’t play both soccer and softball/baseball at the same time, but if you have 150 feet beyond the 84 foot mark (the 84 foot mark from home plate is where the grave infield of a baseball/softball field ends) then you have the width to put a soccer field in on the irrigated grass baseball outfield.  You want to avoid the soccer field having a mix of grass and gravel from the baseball infield.

Turner Park has both the width (158 feet past the 84 foot gravel infield) and the length (310 feet) to put a  regulation soccer field in the baseball/softball outfield, without infringing upon the 84 foot gravel infield of the baseball/softball field, and without infringing upon the toboggan slope at Turner Park used by kids and parents in the winter.   

Returning a ball field and providing an adjoining soccer field at Turner leaves plenty of space for a playground, dog park, event area and multipurpose (pickleball/basketball/road hockey) area. 

And having a joint baseball/softball soccer field does not preclude the field from being used for other community functions. At the end of the day it is a large grass field with an existing baseball backstop and fencing in one corner and portable soccer goal posts at the other. It can easily be used for other events.

For example, the youth soccer club I belonged to in Vancouver, Point Grey, had as its home field a joint baseball/softball/ soccer field at West Point Grey Park.  That field was/is also used each summer for Point Grey Fiesta days, where for a week, portable ferris wheels and other rides and booths are brought in for the community’s families and children. This can be done on every shared baseball soccer field.

Children’s little league, which used to thrive at Turner Park, can be accommodated on a softball field.
Little League field length is 200 feet, less than softballs 275 feet. The distance between bases is the same as softball, 60 feet. and the distinct raised 6 inch pitchers mounds used in baseball are now widely available in portable mounds which readily make a softball field a little league field. So baseball and softball can share the same field.

Youth soccer field sizes vary by age, but by 11-12 years old, children are playing on a full-sized 150 foot by 300 foot soccer field. So you need a full sized soccer field to have a youth soccer club. You can play small sized age appropriate younger games on a partitioned full sized field, but if you don’t have a full sized soccer field there is no option for children to play soccer after the age of 10-11.

Over 165 Peachland adults currently play co ed league slo pitch at Cousins Park. There is a 10 team coed Peachland adult league and a senior Peachland coed slopitch team that plays in the 9 team Central Okanagan Senior Slo pitch league. Civic revenue generating tournament opportunities are limited though when you only have one field at Cousins Park and only therefore only one game that can be played at a time. Add a ball field at Turner Park and you add revenue generating baseball/softball tournament opportunities for young and old Peachland slo pitch, little league and youth soccer teams

To provide adequate field sport facilities for children and adults, to allow Peachland children to play together on Peachland based community little league and soccer teams, we need a
regulation baseball/softball field and regulation soccer field at Turner Park.

The field irrigation works, the washrooms are fixed and the field can be restored, for baseball/softball and soccer in the operating budget in 2022 at Turner Park . This is a quick win.

Let’s do the right thing and give the Peachland kids back their park and the opportunity to play their community sports in their community. And let’s support them when they do.

Please “vote” for restoration of the ball field and a soccer field in 2022 in the upcoming public consultation on the future of Turner Park.

Randey Brophy

Written by Kristen Friesen

December 28, 2021

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