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New walking track policy for Affinity Place paused; city seeking public feedback

Policy approved at the Feb. 13 council meeting has generated plenty of criticism.
Estevan city council 2021
The current Estevan city council.

ESTEVAN - The new policy governing the walking track at Affinity Place has been shelved, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be addressed again.

Estevan city council decided Monday to repeal the document, just two weeks after council had ratified it. Council cited the response from the community and concern with some of the clauses as reasoning for the decision.

The document will be sent back to city staff while council seeks more public feedback. It is to be brought back to council later this year, potentially in the fall.

Four concerned citizens – Megan LeBlanc, Tessa Young, Hunter Piche and Jill DesAutels – submitted letters to council voicing their opposition to the policy. Also, Councillor Tony Sernick sent a letter to council outlining some of the issues from the Estevan Minor Hockey Association.  

Leblanc recommended several changes for the document.

“Initially council made it clear the rules for the track were not going to hinder or harm anyone,” LeBlanc wrote. “We believe the current rules do exactly that to many community members who use the track.”

LeBlanc’s recommendations ranged from simple measures such as being courteous to all other users and proceeding around the track counter-clockwise, to keeping exercise equipment at least 12 inches from the track path. Mini sticks, pucks, balls and other objects won’t be allowed, and group training on track lanes must be single file.

Young noted she homeschools her oldest child and they go there to race each other in the mornings before they start school. She was concerned the policy council approved two weeks ago said no racing or sprinting.
“We have always been encouraged and cheered on by the retired walkers that are there, saying ‘Good for you’ and ‘a boy his age should be running’,” Young wrote.

Piche said Affinity Place is a hockey rink, so hockey players should not have limited time on their home facility track. The repealed policy had limits on the amount of time players could spend training on the track.

“From young minor hockey players all the way up to juniors, off-ice training and warmups play a huge role with on-ice performance and also safety,” wrote Piche. “Properly warming up off ice is huge when it comes to on-ice injury prevention.”

Piche suggested any quiet time should be in the morning.

Desaultels wanted to know why no equipment would be allowed on the sides of the track. She suggested a skipping rope or a mat would be fine. She also voiced concern about who would monitor the track and determine the difference between a jog and a sprint.

“My children often use the track to run when we can’t get outside. I encourage them to run, and as long as they are staying to the side and being respectful of the other walkers, I don’t see the harm in encouraging some physical activity on the track,” she said.

She also asked who would watch for the patrons that walk four across the track.

Councillor Shelly Veroba, who voted against the policy two weeks ago, said people want to see it go back to the way it was previously. Issues would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

As for not allowing sprinting, people do it to build cardiovascular strength, and people were confused between sprinting and running.

“It’s hard to say to someone ‘No, you can’t sprint when you’re the only two people on the track.’”

She and Ludwig pointed out it’s not just a hockey rink, it’s a sports venue and events centre with all sorts of users.

Councillor Rebecca Foord said the issue should serve as a lesson for both council and the public. She said people have accused council of doing this behind closed doors, but it was first discussed publicly by council in December.

“Going forward, if we were to do policies like this or have requests for policies, maybe we should have a public consultation or send out a survey or something online,” said Foord.

A survey will be posted on the city’s website, and printed copies will also be available.

It was also noted that while the policy allows for strollers, it did not mention wheelchairs. Foord and Ludwig apologized for the oversight, and said wheelchairs are and will be allowed.

Councillor Kirsten Walliser said the consensus among people she has talked to is people enjoy the track and that teams use the track for fitness purposes. That’s the part of the policy that needs to be worked on in the coming months.

She wants to know how many hours minor hockey and other organizations need for dryland training.

Until the amended policy is brought forward, the old rules will apply, which means no loitering, walking single-file over the bridge at the east end of the building, no playing mini-sticks and respecting other users.  

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