1. Sooke citizens, community groups and local government have long identified the need for additional community spaces while also recognizing that we have a solid range of existing facilities that are already in use yet could be still more so with creativity, collaboration and funding for upgrades/renovations.
2. There is energy and drive in the community to create new spaces ...
~ The new VIRL Sooke library and its meeting room is a shining 2022 example of one such space.
~ Sooke Region Community Health Network and the District continue to collaborate on a long-game plan to develop the Gathering Place intergenerational centre on Lot A.
~ The Sooke Lions are regrouping, however plans for a Sooke Lions Centre seemingly remain alive, if not in John Phillips Memorial Park then on its Murray Road property or elsewhere.
~ Sooke's new Community Economic Development Officer Gail Scott is positioned to work as a go-between with community groups and incoming developers to ensure commercial/office space is considered for #Sooke purposes (galleries, studio space, commercial kitchens, etc.)
3. Existing facilities can be upgraded and better utilized ...
~ An exciting development this year is the launch of The Village Initiative, coordinated by SD #62's Cindy Andrew in collaboration with United Way Southern Vancouver Island and 40+ organizations on the westshore (including the District of Sooke and SEAPARC.) One of its goals is to make better use of existing spaces while also identifying gaps.
~ The Sooke Community Association has plans to renovate the washrooms at the Community Hall (the SCA's Annual General Meeting this year is on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7 PM downstairs in the hall).
~ The Royal Canadian Legion has revamped its kitchen and is positioned to make better use of its second floor for events, exhibits and gatherings.
4. Mantra for this and all things #Sooke as formulated generations ago and still applicable today/tomorrow/everafter ...
~ Planning, process, patience, persistence + creativity and community collaboration
Starters from this blog:
* Sooke Elders' Complex (aka The Gathering Place) (updated March 2022)
* Proposal: Sooke Lions Centre in the Park (updated Nov. 2022)
* Sooke Library Process & Opening (updated spring 2022)
* State of Sooke's Youth Nation (March 2021)
Also see this 2019 agenda from the Northeast Quadrant Lot A Task Force, which includes previously released reports on Sooke community spaces -- the Sooke Seniors Centre Drop-In Society Visioning For the Future (2013), Sooke Region CHI's Getting It Built: Community Centre Project (2014) and the Lot A Final Report (2019).
That agenda also includes a reverse-chronological timeline I prepared with details on council motions dating back from 2019. Worth noting are the results of the 2014 election plebiscite: "Would you support the District of Sooke working with the community to develop multi‐use community centre facilities?" YES: 82.9% in favour based on a 41.5% voter turnout. (3072 vs. 631 votes).
Main Existing Community Facilities
Inventories of Sooke spaces have been conducted a number of times over the last decade, including by the Sooke Community Centre Advisory Committee chaired by Lee Boyko and featuring reps from the Sooke Community Association, Sooke Fall Fair, SRCHN, Sooke Rotary Club, SEAPARC and Transition Sooke (i.e., yours truly), Ten meetings over 18 months through October 2016. (The bulk of minutes are not available online, however, and I'll have to seek out the list developed by the committee in mid-2015 during an open space session moderated by Tony and Christiana St-Pierre.)
* Sooke Community Hall
* Royal Canadian Sooke Legion Branch #54
* SEAPARC Leisure Complex (board room plus arena use for Sooke Fine Arts Show, Sookerama and other events.)
* Edward Milne Community School (rentals of space in it and all Sooke school facilities through the EMCS Society)
* Sooke Community Theatre at EMCS (with 350 newly replaced seats)
* Sooke Branch, Vancouver Island Regional Library (one small and one larger meeting room bookable here)
* Social Services Hub at the Sooke Shelter (welcoming ground floor space with commercial kitchen, ready early 2023)
* Sooke Masonic Lodge #159 (downstairs room rentals with kitchen)
* Sooke Family Resource Society (dividable meeting room)
* Prestige Hotel (convention space, meeting rooms)
Proposed Sooke Facilities
~ Sooke Gathering Place (multi-use seniors space with intergenerational programming at the ground floor and below-grade levels + 77 units of affordable BC Housing seniors rental apartments above)
~ Sooke Arts Council at the Gathering Space (TBD gallery and studio spaces should the project move ahead)
~ Sooke Lions Centre (use the drop-down menu for more information)
~ Opportunities for new community space within major new town-centre developments as proposed in and coordinated by Sooke's Community Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan (2021)
- New schools planned for Sooke: Sunriver Elementary School on land owned by SD #62 is slated for a 2027 ground-breaking adjacent to the multi-sport court box. Also set for wholesale renovation or a new-build is Sooke Elementary. Daycare centres (aka Child Care Resource and Referral Centres) are intended to be part of new and existing sites. SD #62's next-build elementary school in Royal Bay will include space for non-profit groups -- in particular THRIVE Social Services and the BGC (Boys and Girls Club) South Vancouver Island.
(Sooke received the Ministry of Education funding love pre-2000, and it will be our turn again as SD #62 looks beyond its necessary focus on the faster-than-us growth centres in Langford and Colwood. <clip from this Nov. 14 Ministry press release> "In the past five years, the Ministry of Education and Child Care has approved $227 million to create 2,280 new student seats in the Sooke School District, including a new 480-seat elementary school in south Langford and a 600-seat expansion at Royal Bay Secondary, as well as site purchases for three future schools. Budget 2022 includes $3.1 billion for school capital projects over the next three years, including new and expanded schools, seismic upgrades and replacements, and land purchases for future schools.")
- Sooke Community Association developed a renovation blueprint some years ago for the Community Hall. Community members built the hall in the 1930s with get-it-done spirit and volunteer labour, and today's generation continues to pour their own labour and love into it. A relatively recent example is the work Anderson General Construction completed on the front entrance: "Structural replacement of front entrance stairs and railings, stairs and supporting structure were completely rebuilt and new natural fir wood features installed with new hand rails, non-slip surfacing installed on stair treads and fiber cement siding installed in place of existing vinyl siding on face."
[Other Community Hall improvements in recent years: new carpeting in lower hall areas; repainting of interior walls; refinishing of non-carpeted flooring; new chairs for facility users; upgrades to fire-suppression equipment in downstairs kitchen. Future upgrades to the hall will replace exterior siding and windows.
SCA provides space at no charge or reduced rental rate to Meals On Wheels, Contact Loan Cupboard, Sooke Food Bank, Sooke Lions Club, Sooke Harbourside Lions, Amber Academy, Sooke Salmon Enhancement, Seniors Bridge and Bus Club, Sooke Fall Fair, Sooke Soccer Club, Sooke Martial Arts and community organizations booking the hall.]
- Royal Canadian Legion has plans, but needs funding, to install an elevator to reach its second floor. Closed during Covid, the Legion's kitchen has been revitalized by the owner/operator of the Chompkins food truck and rebranded as Chompkin's at Grill 54.
- A makeover of the Throup Road skate park was identified as a mid-term priority within SEAPARC's 2015 strategic plan, which is set to undergo a planned review by the SEAPARC Commission. <clip> "Replace existing skatepark and expand, or create two separate skateparks in different locations in Sooke, but both in close proximity to the schools in the community. The primary skatepark could also include a parkour circuit and/or a relocated bike skills circuit should it outgrow the SEAPARC location." A second hockey rink is emerging as a new need given the demand for ice time. (The District financially supported the celebrated turf field at Fred Milne Park, which came about thanks to much volunteer effort and private-sector contributions by community-minded individuals and companies. I'm told local and regional teams are stoked to play there, especially after learning our turf is the same as that on which the Seattle Seahawks play.)
Identifying and optimizing existing community spaces, schools included
The Village Initiative: Sooke/Westshore
The Village Initiative (TVI) "is an inter-disciplinary network of more than 40 organizations sharing a commitment to the vision of healthy and thriving children, youth, and families across the Sooke and West Shore communities ... TVI took root when the Sooke School District and Island Health started a conversation with community partners, recognizing that the health and wellbeing of children, youth, and families are best supported through an all-hands-on-deck approach – a Village. The urgency of our mission has only been underscored by the global pandemic and its impact on children, youth, and families."
- Project Plan for Sooke-Westshore Shared Space Network and System (March, 2022)
- Space survey results (2021)
- See full list with links of member organizations at end of this post
- Sooke/Westshore Community Health Profile (2022)
Three TVI priority areas ...
"Spaces to Provide Services: People thrive when they have access to services. From health promotion to specialized services, affordable and timely services is key to healthy, thriving young people and families. Access helps ensure that our community is a vibrant, prosperous and healthy place. BUT quality services require sufficient and suitable spaces. A recent survey of service providers highlighted the URGENT need for space. Read here how our workgroup action plan is addressing this. Did you know that over 8,000 additional people could be served right now if space was available for those services?
Better Service Coordination: Everyone deserves timely, low-barrier and coordinated access to the supports they need to thrive. Being able to get support where you need it, when you need it, is critical. Accessible, coordinated services require our local service providers to maintain frequent communication, share knowledge and build relationships with one another. BUT the complexity of today’s fast-paced and hectic world can make this hard. A recent community profile highlighted the need for strengthened service coordination in our area. Read here how our workgroup action plan on mental health promotion is addressing this.
Building on Strengths, Enhancing Capacities: Addressing critical health and social issues of children, youth and families requires increasing the capacity of communities to build connections and enhance social capital. It also requires increasing the capacity of organizations to innovate, be responsive and nimble and work together in new ways. To help with that TVI is facilitating enhanced communication, coordination and collaboration across sectors and systems; leading data collection and analysis to inform action, and strengthening youth engagement to help inform collective efforts."
Other Community Spaces and Activities
* Whiffin Spit, Sooke Potholes, boardwalk, public parks (i.e., the Great Outdoors)
* Sports fields
* Hiking groups
* Service clubs
* Private homes and backyards
* Craft brewery tasting rooms (3)
Sooke Community Wants and Needs
From the Getting It Built: Community Centre Report (Sooke Region CHI, 2014)
* based on 104 survey replies
"Priorities of those who took part in the online survey are as follows:
~ 22% wanted a Seniors Centre/Drop-In
~ 22% wanted an indoor gymnasium for racquetball, squash, basketball, gymnastics, badminton, and floor hockey.
~ 19% wanted a Youth Centre/Drop-In
~ 18% wanted several small multi-purpose/meeting spaces
~ 18% wanted a large multi-purpose/dividing space/hall
~ 17% wanted a large kitchen to cook and sell community meals
~ 17% wanted various arts rooms and an art gallery
~ 14% wanted lots of outdoor space with flower gardens, food gardens, picnic tables, benches, fountains, etc.
~ 14% wanted outdoor play space for children with a water park and playground ! 11% wanted indoor open space; a place to “be” and gather
~ 10% wanted an indoor playground for children
Other suggestions (with 5 or more responses) included:
~ Stage/Theatre for rehearsals and small shows
~ Connection to the new Library or having reading spaces, book exchanges, quiet areas for reading and studying, etc.
~ Out-of School care, childcare, daycare, or pre-school space
~ More coffee shop or cafés
~ Outdoor gym or court(s)"
Suggested locations for new-builds and/or renovations ...
"Respondents were asked to vote for their top 3 preferred locations by selecting a first, second, and third choice from a list of 20 possible locations, which were determined during the first two community forums.
- John Phillips Memorial Park (top choice with 11 votes)
- Mulligan’s ranked second with 7 votes
- Mariner’s Village - 5 votes
- SEAPARC - 4 votes.
- “As close to the geographic centre of Sooke as possible; accessible to transit” - 4 votes
- Other votes were for Helgesen Farm, the Sooke Lions’ property on Murray Road, Woodside Farm, the location of the New Library, private property behind Village Foods, property behind the old Fire Hall site (new RBC location), The Castle Pub, Throup Road (Mason’s property), Murray Road Park, the Waddams farm on Church Rd, and the Sooke CASA building."
- Arts groups in the past have expressed keen interest in a black-box theatre in the town centre (Kelowna example) as a flexible space for rehearsals and smaller-scale events.
- An arts gallery/studio space in the spirit of the celebrated Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum was explored by the Mayor's Advisory Council on Arts & Beautification circa 2012/13 at the former Mulligans property when it was on the market.
~ Saseenos Elementary Nature Kindergarden + it's popular!
~ SEAPARC + 2015 Strategic Plan + swimming pool opens (2000) + $3.4 million fitness room (2020)
~ $1.2 million multi-court sports box in Sunriver
~ Sooke Soccer Club + new community/District/CRD-funded $1.5m all-season turf field at Fred Milne Park
~ Sooke Minor Fastball Association (new field at Art Morris Park partially funded by DOS and CRD)
~ Sooke Minor Hockey
~ Sooke Bike Club + local trail networks
~ Sooke Bike Skills Park at SEAPARC (opened March 2015)
~ Harbourview + history
~ Galloping Goose Regional Trail (2002 PDF pamphlet)
~ EMCS Academies - Soccer + Hockey
~ DeMamiel Creek Golf Course
~ Sooke Rotary Skate Park
~ STARR (Sooke Trail and Road Runners)
~ Sooke Pickleball Group
~ Guided hikes led the JDF Community Trails Society's Sid and Rosemary Jorna
~ Kludahk Outdoors Club
~ Sooke News Mirror archive of sports stories
The Village Initiative member organizations
(stewardship committee organizations in green)
BGC South Vancouver Island
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable
Children’s Health Foundation
City of Colwood
City of Langford
District of Sooke
Family Services of Greater Victoria
First Nations Health Authority
Food Share Network
Goldstream Food Bank
Greater Victoria Public Library
Hulitan Family and Community Services Society
Island Health – Mental Health and Substance Use, Children, Youth and Families, Public Health, Priority Populations
Island Health – Public Health
Island Métis Family & Community Services Society
Juan de Fuca Performing Arts Centre Society
KidSport Greater Victoria
Learning through Loss
MCFD Child & Youth Mental Health
Military Family Resource Centre
Mustard Seed Food Bank
Pacific Centre Family Services
PISE (Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence)
Royal Roads University
Saunders Family Foundation
SEAPARC Leisure Complex
Sooke Family Resource Society
Sooke Food Bank
Sooke Region Communities Health Network
Sooke School District
Thrive Social Services
United Way of Greater Victoria
United Way Southern Vancouver Island
University of Victoria Centre for Youth & Society
Vancouver Island Regional Library
Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society
West Shore Chamber of Commerce
West Shore Parks & Recreation
Westshore Town Centre
WorkLink Employment Society
YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island