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Each incumbent mayor in Greater Victoria (of which there are 13) have been given an opportunity to share with Victoria Sports News website visitors, their answers to a uniform set of questions related to sport and recreation in their municipality and throughout Greater Victoria.
Greater Victoria refers to the usual communities that make up the “city”: Sooke, Metchosin, Colwood, Langford, Esquimalt, Highlands, View Royal, Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, Sidney, Victoria and Oak Bay.
Greater Victoria is considered a very active community where the people have a very high standard of physical activity in comparison to other cities around North America. In regards to perspectives on recreation, health, fitness, sports, alternative transportation and green initiatives, not everyone is on the exact same page. Below Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps answers questions about sport and recreation in her community.
The Questions and the Answers – Victoria Mayor Lisa Help
VSN: There are several parks in Greater Victoria, Beacon Hill (and the BHP friends society) comes to mind as the most robust. Some have bylaw(s) that discriminate against commercial activity from taking place within the park boundary. Commercial activity can include hanging a sponsor sign (let’s be real here). This often prevents sporting events from taking place in those parks.
What is your opinion on the nature of the bylaw(s) in regards to their effect on your resident’s or community’s ability to host sporting events? Do you have plans to visit preventative-like bylaws and seek to change them?
Mayor Lisa Helps:
Beacon Hill Park is one of the few naturalized areas in the City of Victoria. I think it’s important to preserve and steward that natural asset and to keep it open and accessible for the majority of the public to enjoy for the majority of the time. I think, at the same time, there is room for sponsored sporting events to take place in the park, especially in the pre-existing fields and diamonds. The prohibition on commercial activity dates back to the nineteenth century. It is not a simple City bylaw that needs to be changed, but rather a provincial document. I think there is room for more flexibility with regards to the use of Beacon Hill Park while still preserving the naturalized areas.
VSN: What are your plans for infrastructure improvements related to, recreational facilities, playgrounds, ballparks, access to the outdoors for the challenged and civic events?
Lisa Helps: The City of Victoria is currently undertaking the Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre Replacement Project. The plan is to replace the existing facility with a new facility including a 50-metre pool, community rooms, a workout centre and more. Unlike the current facility which prohibits about 20% of the public from easily accessing it due to being constructed in a time before we took accessibility seriously, the new facility will be universally accessible to people of all ages and abilities. This will increase health and wellness and sporting opportunities for a much broader spectrum of the public across the region.
VSN: What is your general opinion on Greater Victoria hosting major games such as Commonwealth Games or Pan Am Games?
Lisa Helps: The City of Victoria is currently supporting a bid for the North American Indigenous Games. We have also supported in the past bids for the BC Senior’s Games. And we successfully won the World Junior Hockey Tournament in 2018-2019 in a bid jointly submitted with the City of Vancouver. I am generally supportive of sport hosting and think it adds a lot not only to our economy but to our sense of possibility and vision as a city and as a region. With regard to larger events like the Commonwealth or Pan Am games, I would be very supportive of these kinds of initiatives, given the right circumstances. Two key conditions are that the games be held in the shoulder season when the hotels are not already full and that there is enough lead time to construct all the new infrastructure, including new housing for athletes that could be turned into housing for Victorians after the games.
VSN: With Greater Victoria’s beautiful sport and recreation-friendly environment, how can the area municipal leaders work together to bring in more sport and recreation tourism? What initiatives may you currently be undertaking?
Lisa Helps: In my role as Mayor, I have been very supportive of the efforts of Tourism Victoria as they work with partners across the region to create more opportunities for sport hosting and recreational tourism. This is where the urban and rural parts of the region can really work well together – there are opportunities for diverse experiences within very close proximity: Head out to hike or kayak for the day and then come back into Victoria for the evening for good food, wine, and live music.
VSN: For the grassroots level sports to have something to strive towards, keeping the top-rung teams in the market is important. Transportation on and off the island is difficult for island teams at all levels, as well as teams that visit the island. Are there efforts to lobby BC Ferries to better accommodate the cost-restrictive ferry fees? Is there anything you would do or endorse in such an effort?
Lisa Helps: This is an issue not only for island teams but also for island musicians who want to tour across Canada or at the very least, off the island. There may be opportunities to explore closer partnership with BC Ferries to look at the positive economic impact that both sports and music have when visiting teams and musicians come to the island and maybe to create a program where some of that revenue could be used to support teams and musicians heading off island.
VSN: Would you challenge area mayors and councillors and candidates in the potential, Victoria Sports News Mayor’s Pickleball Tournament?
Who would you take from your council as a teammate; it would be a doubles tourney. And which mayor or candidate would you like to beat the most?
Lisa Helps: Yes, but I’d need to learn to play pickleball first! It’s not about winning or losing, it’s how you play that counts!