In considering future plans for Maccaud Park, White Rock council has given priority to preserving and enhancing green space and tree canopy, and limited the expansion of “impermeable surfaces.”
However, council stopped short of ruling out the possibility of adding pickleball courts.
Councillors, who last month seemed mostly united on the prospect of building pickleball courts in Maccaud Park, are now divided on the issue after Peace Arch News published an article shining light on the history of the park and the reported intentions of the original owner.
The article quoted former White Rock councillor and Freeman of the City Vin Coyne, who raised concern that adding pickleball courts would run contrary to the wishes of the late Irene (Renee) Maccaud-Nelson, a noted environmentalist who sold the property to the city in 1968 under the condition that it be left as a park.
Coyne, who was representing the city at the time, is the only living participant of the negotiations to purchase the park from Maccaud. Others involved included the city’s lawyer and chief administrative officer at the time.
While there may not have been a written stipulation, Coyne said there was a “gentleman’s agreement with a great lady” that the park be kept in a “passive” greenspace, with exception of the Kent Street Activity Centre, “which she fully supported.”
Coun. David Chesney, who initially told council at its March 8 regular meeting that he “wholeheartedly” supported pickleball courts in the park, reversed his position at the March 29 meeting. New information about the proposal put it in a “different light” that’s “worthy of consideration,” he said. He also told council he spoke directly with Coyne prior to the meeting.
“I’m going to take a leap of faith here and completely change, and I’m going to put forward a motion that we no longer consider the installation of pickleball and tennis courts in Maccaud Park,” Chesney told council.
Chesney’s motion was defeated in a 3-3 vote, with White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, Couns. Scott Kristjanson and Erika Johanson voting against.
Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, who teaches high school, wasn’t at the March 29 meeting because he had an appointment in Newton to receive his COVID-19 immunization. Trevelyan told PAN he would have supported Chesney’s motion had he been present. He said he intends to put forward a similar motion at a future council meeting.
Speaking to Chesney’s motion, Johanson noted that Coyne said “passive” space, and that she doubts that connotation existed back in 1968 – “so it doesn’t really mean anything to me right now in this context.”
She also noted that there is an existing tennis table in the park and “nobody seemed to complain.”
“Also, we’re relying on the memory of one person. I just can’t support this,” Johanson told council.
Kristjanson, who has been among the most vocal council members in support of pickleball courts in the park, also took issue with the term “passive.”
“That’s Mr. Coyne’s opinion, and I have to respect that, but it is hearsay,” Kristjanson told PAN. “I don’t think there was a definition of passive at the time.”
Kristjanson said he supports following the written agreement, which doesn’t specifically say the park must be used as a passive green space.
“She basically just says she wanted a park. I think a park can have tennis courts or pickleball courts or BBQ pits. It can do anything,” Kristjanson told council.
Building pickleball courts addresses not only a need for recreational opportunities on the east side of White Rock, but can also alleviate the existing drainage issue on the south side of the park, Kristjanson told PAN. The drainage problems have created an unhealthy environment for trees in that area of the park, staff indicated to council.
“I think there’s like one tree we might have to lose, but it’s like one-tenth of the entire park,” Kristjanson told PAN. “The whole thing is three acres, we’re talking about what do we do with this one place that has bad drainage.”
Speaking with PAN, Chesney said he has the utmost respect for Coyne and he’s “unparalleled” when it comes to historical knowledge of the city. In addition, Chesney said, Coyne has the memory of a “steel trap.”
“It’s not some guy sitting at the end of the bar at Sawbucks,” Chesney said. “His recollection of history should certainly be acknowledged but it didn’t seem to go very far with my fellow councillors.”
Chesney, noting that Coyne was one of three people who struck the agreement with Maccaud, said he’s hopeful he can convince council there’s another way to resolve the drainage and recreational issues.
He also said he may look into the possibility of Coyne writing up an addendum for the Maccaud Park land contract to represent the verbal agreement made in 1968.
“So that in the future years to come, other councillors will not be confused with the wishes of Mrs. Maccaud,” Chesney said.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Helen Fathers put forward a motion that directed staff to come back with a report on installing lights at tennis and pickleball courts in Centennial Park. Staff told council the proposal would lengthen the playtime of the courts.
The motion passed.