People on the new walking track at Bear Creek Park in Surrey on Tuesday, June 30. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

New track in Surrey park keeps walkers away from athletes

Track coach has witnessed many accidents and injuries on Bear Creek Park’s main track in recent years

A new walking track at Bear Creek Park is designed to separate those who like to walk from athletes in training.

The main track at the Surrey park is now reserved for track athletes from Monday to Friday, 5 to 8 p.m.

“It’s a safety issue,” said Jessie Dosanjh, a track coach with Universal Athletics.

“It’s a really good thing that the walkers can use the new track. It’s important to separate the walkers from the track athletes, for safety concerns. There used to be a big argument about it, but now the (walking) track is there for them. I have not heard anybody have a concern about it, but maybe a few are going to be upset. And with social distance, it’s good too, to have people separated a little bit more.”

The new walking track “provides a casual drop-in amenity that is essential during busy periods at Bear Creek Park to ensure a safe training facility at the existing athletics track to support the competitive development of world-class athletes,” according to Neal Aven, Surrey’s manager of parks.

The four-lane walking track, located around the perimeter of the upper grass soccer field parallel with 88th Avenue, is 400 metres long and five metres wide.

“It’s wonderful,” said walker Camilla Greene on a recent Tuesday afternoon. “The rubberized surface makes it bouncy, so it’s great for walking. It’s not too busy, either – just a few people out here right now.”

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Construction was completed in the spring, although the rectangular track has been open to the public since last fall. Installation of pedestrian lighting is planned this fall, Aven said. The total project budget is around $500,000.

Dosanjh said he has witnessed many accidents and injuries on the main track in recent years, including the time when star athlete Katarina Vlahovic was hurt in a run-in with a walker.

“She just took off from the blocks and someone came in front, and to avoid that she hit the hurdles and broke three of her teeth,” Dosanjh said last fall. “I had a couple athletes get injured, and the people, it’s not their fault. They want to walk, and they can use the track if nobody is there, but at least they can respect the place for what it’s built for. It’s not for a stroller or dress shoes, not a bike on it. If they really want to walk or roll around, they need a safe place, and the other (track) will be for that.”

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The walking track is part of Phase 1 of the Bear Creek Park Athletics Centre project identified in the city’s 2020 five-year Capital Financial Plan, Aven noted.

The “destination sports facility” would be home to a 2,200-seat covered grandstand and artificial turf field by 2023. The complex is designed to host national track and field meets, games of football, soccer and other sports, and also community events such as fundraising walks/runs and possibly concerts. The plan calls for a “creative” increase in the number of parking stalls in the park.

With a price tag of around $21 million, the project would include upgrading the track and sports field to “international standards” with a rubberized surface, and replacing the 500-seat wooden bleachers with a modern grandstand that would feature both individual plastic seats and “relaxed” seating, a concession, change rooms and a sheltered “warmup track” that would double as training space during the winter months.

Details of the project were revealed to the public last October during an open house held at the adjacent Surrey Arts Centre.

• READ MORE: Sports ‘hub’ pitched at Surrey park designed to draw big track meets and games.

For now, Dosanjh said the Universal club’s athletes are keen to be back on the track, after months of down time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got our permit and it was beautiful to see our athletes back at the track,” he said in late June.

“We don’t have any competitions for the athletes yet, but it’s important for them to keep fit,” he said. “This is a tough time for them. They are excited to come (to the track) but they don’t see anything to acheive this year. Not yet. The rule is, no more than 10 (athletes) in a group, to make things safe, and not more than 50 athletes in total on the field at one time.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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