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Metro shoots down paintball idea for regional parks

Business proposal for fake gun battles goes down with a splat

A proposal to let gun-toting camouflaged paintball players run amok in regional parks has been shot down by Metro Vancouver as too warlike and an inappropriate use of public land.

Most members of Metro's environment and parks committee said they couldn't support the request from an unnamed company, even though it would have brought in some rental income.

"You're trying to shoot somebody in the chest or in the head," Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said of the extreme sport where players dressed as soldiers fire guns loaded with paint pellets.

"It's absolutely not the kind of value we should be promoting."

Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal, the committee's chair, said she loves paintball but said a large section of a regional park would have to be fenced and screened from other users, effectively making it off-limits to them.

"What it's actually doing is simulating going out and killing someone," said Port Coquitlam Coun. Darrell Penner. "To me, it's not appropriate for a public park."

But Richmond Coun. Harold Steves and Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin voted against the motion rejecting the concept, saying they wanted staff to at least consider what areas might be appropriate and test how much revenue might come in.

Steves likened paintball to the wholesome capture-the-flag game played outdoors at camps in his childhood.

"The whole idea that this is wrong is just a perception about people with weapons," he said..

"I'm not saying paintball is the right fit for our parks," Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin said. "I don't know. We haven't seen the proposal."

She dismissed concerns that paintball players leaving a park with unspent ammunition might go on to vandalize the surrounding neighbourhood.

Metro staff did not say what park or parks had been suggested for the activity.

A staff report warned it might generate conflict with other nature-loving park visitors over the use of mock weapons, vegetation might be trampled and paint splatters or spent pellets might deface trees and the landscape.

Visitors or neighbours might even mistake the pretend soldiers and their guns for the real thing, it said.

The report concluded the disadvantages outweighed the benefits of increased park visits, promoting more active recreation and "modest" rent fees that would be charged to operators.