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'Makes me sick': Residents gather at city hall to protest sports field

'It’s completely reprehensible to tear down a forest and put Astroturf in. It’s completely insane,' Barrie man says of controversial project along southern shore

A large group of protesters rallied outside Barrie City Hall on Wednesday night to show their opposition to council's plans for an artificial youth sports field and parade grounds along the southern shore.

A couple hundred people attended, waving signs and listening to organizers over a loudspeaker.

City council essentially approved the field, to be located east of Military Heritage Park, and an addition to recently renamed General John Hayter Southshore Community Centre for the Sea Cadets new home, on May 15.

The field would measure 100-by-154 metres in size, with the Southshore addition being 600 square metres. The project would cost a combined $9.15 million to build. The field would be for soccer, rugby, football and lacrosse, as well as a marching area for the Sea Cadets. There could also be amenities such as lighting, benches and site furnishings.

When it was approved May 15, only Coun. Jim Harris, who represents this part of Barrie, and Coun. Amy Courser voted against building the sports field there.

A simple majority of council is required to revisit a motion within six months of its approval or defeat.

Bob and Barb Graham, who have lived in Barrie for 60 years, were on hand at the rally in an effort to try and repeat history by changing the minds of the remaining city councillors.

“We were up at Sunnidale Park 50 years ago, saving the park,” he told BarrieToday at tonight's rally. “Alderman Dorian Parker was the only council person who said no to the idea of developing Sunnidale Park. Parker swung all the votes to save the park.

"And here the council members are doing the same with this here, not appreciating the fact that wild territory can be left alone, for the benefit of everybody,” Graham added. 

The Grahams say there has been “very poor communication” surrounding the city’s plans for the south shore.

“With respect to the gem of our bay, if you are a council person, I don’t think you want to mess with the bay. You just don’t want to do that," Bob said. "The cadets makes sense, but nothing else makes sense."

The city says there will be more public consultation on the sports field, which could include a public information session, with feedback.

A permit is required from Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), because its regulated area crosses the sports field’s top portion, and an archaeological assessment is also needed.

The Sea Cadets, an organization long located near the Spirit Catcher, would move to a 600-sq.-m. addition to the General John Hayter Southshore Community Centre, a northerly extension to the basement of the existing building. It comes with a $4.55-million price tag.

“We certainly want to see the Sea Cadets over there, no question about it,” Graham said. “They need to be on the water; they just don’t need a big Astroturf thing.”

Barrie resident William Milne, 74, said he is “vehemently against” the city’s plans as they currently are.

“I’ve kayaked Kempenfelt Bay for 40 years … and watched all the different changes, and that’s the only place left where you can walk in a natural environment," he said. "It’s completely reprehensible to tear down a forest and put Astroturf in. It’s completely insane."

Milne says the biggest problem facing the city right now is homelessness, and councillors should be focusing resources on that issue instead.

“It makes me sick," said his wife, Anne Walasek. “This is the one nice, quiet place to walk around on the lake and that’s it. There’s fox dens there, there’s birds nesting, it’s just ridiculous. Why do we need another bloody sports field?”

Eight-year-old Ben Hammell, who is a Grade 3 student at Cundles Heights Public School, held a protest sign high above his head for all to see.

“I’m here because we really care about the environment and I don’t want part of the lake to be hurt,” Hammell told BarrieToday.

“It just makes me angry. They should probably plant a native garden,” he added. “My mom’s all about that sort of stuff. She has a group called Pollinate Barrie.”

There is a petition, started May 7, 2024, to ‘say no to developing a multi-use sports field and parade grounds at the south shore and Allandale Park’, with 4,402 signatures as of this evening. Click here to visit the petition.

There is also a petition, started June 7, 2023, that the ‘Navy League Barrie petitions the City of Barrie for a multi-use facility on Kempenfelt Bay’ with 2,072 signatures, again as of Wednesday evening. Click here to see that petition.