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Garbage, vandalism and drugs: Abbotsford Soccer Association decries decline of local sports facilities

Safety and cleanliness at fields is a major issues, says the ASA in an open letter to city council
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The Abbotsford Soccer Association has penned a letter to the City of Abbotsford expressing concerns over what they say is a decline in local sports facilities, specifically the Matsqui Recreation Centre turf fields.

In an eight-page document sent to media and local government, they stated that drug paraphernalia, vandalism and issues related to homelessness are constantly encountered by those trying to use the field.

The letter explains that children are at risk due to the hazards created by items that they say are left by drug users.

Kandace Wark, an ASA director, team manager and a player parent, said several incidents have impacted her and her family’s enjoyment of the field.

“I have been at the fields helping police and paramedics because I found a woman overdosed and a victim of rape, laying behind the fields close to my son’s team practice, her clothing torn,” she states within the letter. “While my son was practising, I’ve had a youth run up to me terrified, asking to borrow my phone because he was being chased by a group of young adults who were trying to beat him up – I subsequently drove him home to his family so he could be safe.”

Wark added she believes MRC isn’t safe for the community and isn’t the sports facility it should be.

Sherri Hanson, ASA president and staff coach, shared a response to a recent incident at the MRC Fields that was not satisfactory.

“A man was lying awkwardly on the player’s bench, unresponsive, shallow breathing, and the muscles of his limbs appeared very rigid,” she said. “A young female player who had been coaching at a children’s soccer camp earlier in the day reported that the man had been lying there, in direct sunlight, in the same position for five hours. She suggested he may have overdosed and pointed to a crack pipe, lighter, and other drug paraphernalia scattered to the side.”

Hanson said the man was moved, but she did not receive adequate help or assistance from police or ambulance. She stated that the man walked outside the field gate and continued smoking his pipe.

The ASA said that net vandalism is also an issue, with many cut and damaged. Parts of the turf field are also often fire damaged and it leaves the users with few options but to attempt to repair it themselves.

According to the ASA, the benches and shelters at the fields have been used frequently as a refuge for the unhoused.

“While it is essential to address homelessness as a broader societal issue, the fact that individuals are left with no alternative but to find shelter in our sports facilities highlights the urgency of the situation,” the letter states. “It is a stark reminder that the neglect of our public spaces affects not only the athletes but also the vulnerable among us.”

The letter states that the overall cleanliness of the fields is also poor.

“The presence of litter scattered across the fields is commonplace, but our coaches and players alike have witnessed the covered player benches decorated with used condoms and female hygiene products,” the letter reads. “This is not only a safety hazard but also a painful sight for those who yearn for a clean and safe environment in which to play and enjoy sports. Household items have been found on the field, including a couch and microwave, beaten and damaged.”

The letter concludes that the City of Abbotsford needs to take immediate action to address these issues and protect young athletes from harm.

To view the entire letter, visit drive.google.com/file/d/1JaeaXXgXMiQZdRf1KTgSd5vYaWZ411j6/view.

The News reached out to the City of Abbotsford, who stated that they share the same concerns as the ASA.

“We fully recognize how upsetting it would be for anyone to find someone who has overdosed in our community,” stated Aletta Vanderheyden, the communications and public relations manager for the City of Abbotsford.

“Homelessness and addiction are complex issues that communities in BC are continuing to grapple with, and there is no one solution. While the responsibility for addressing the homelessness and addiction crisis lies at the provincial government level, we recognize that it will take all levels of government continuing to work together to address the issue.

”In this way, Abbotsford city council and the City of Abbotsford continue work with our provincial partners to ensure we have the services to meet the needs of people experiencing addiction and/or homelessness in our community.”

Vanderheyden said that anyone seeing a negative impact to the use and enjoyment of local parks is encouraged to notify through the Abbotsford app, the “report an issue” web page on the City of Abbotsford site or by calling the public works yard at 604-853-5485.

She added that the city also performs regular cleanup in parks. She also recommended that public safety and criminal issues be brought to the attention of the Abbotsford Police Department.



Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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