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Games Legacy Helps School Community Build New Track at Bert Bowes Middle School

Author: BC Games Society/Friday, October 15, 2021/Categories: Front Page, 2021 News, BC Winter Games, 2020 BC Winter Games

After more than 60 years of running on a dirt track outside of Bert Bowes Middle School, the community of Fort St. John is out of the starting blocks and ready to run, jump, and throw on a new track surface. The Fort St. John 2020 BC Winter Games Legacy Committee allocated $100,000 to help Bert Bowes Middle School upgrade a new athletics track and playing surface.

The idea for the project started with one hopeful parent simply longing for his hometown to provide better opportunities for his children and the North Peace athletics community. Curtis Whitford, a parent of three and former volunteer Elementary School track coach in Fort St. John began asking himself two compelling questions: Firstly, why did he find himself out at the old Bert Bowes track with other parents, year after year, working tirelessly to get the dirt track lined and prepped for the upcoming district meet – hoping that it wouldn’t rain the night before the race and send them into a mad scramble – and secondly, why was it that his eighth-grade son had never had the chance to train with starting blocks ahead of the regional meet, in which he competed against athletes with access to better training facilities.

He took his questions up to the Stephen Petrucci, School District Superintendent, and encouraged him to see his vision for a future Fort St. John athletics facility capable of hosting events.

In the next year’s School District Facility Upgrade rollout, Bert Bowes Middle School and its PAC were bestowed $348,587 towards their track revitalization project, allowing them to raise the track’s surface and upgrade the long-jump pits. However, the Bert Bowes PAC, of which Whitford was now the Vice President of for the purpose of seeing this project out, dared to dream bigger. They dreamt of a competition standard facility with an asphalt surface and painted lanes that would withstand the harsh weather, live-on for many generations, be accessible to all, and help create a healthier community. The price tag of this track project? An additional $190,000.

Faced with the biggest obstacle this project had faced yet, they did what people from a tight-knit community do; they turned to their community for support. And so, the idea that had begun with one was quickly picked up and ran with by all. This new rallying mission got them reaching for community contributions and creative ways to bring their vision for a better future to life.

The City of Fort St. John promptly stepped up with a $60,993 contribution to refurbish the track’s soccer infield and with private donations, as well as in kind support from local construction companies, the Bert Bowes PAC had made massive strides towards their lofty goal. The final push to complete the project came from the 2020 BC Winter Games – a celebration of community and athletic excellence that gathered the province’s best young athletes and coaches in Fort St. John last February. The Games were a tremendous success, leaving behind an invaluable legacy in the form of economic funding, facility upgrades, equipment, new friendships and a huge injection of pride for this mighty community in the North. 

Of the more than $242,000 in total Games legacy, $100,000 was committed to the Bert Bowes Track project by the Games Legacy Committee. With the funds accounted, the Bert Bowes PAC had surpassed their lofty $190,000 goal by $12,000 and now plans to direct the surplus towards sports equipment and additional storage.

“What I’m most proud about is the way this community and region at large came together to make this a reality, around the idea of providing a better future for our own,” said Whitford. “It was a complete group effort. Without the collectivism of our community, and the BC Winter Games coming through Fort St. John, this would not have been possible.”

With the elevated foundation, asphalt surfacing, infield, and signage installation done, and final track lines expected to be completed in the coming months, school groups and community members have begun using the new track in anticipation for the next annual School District 60 North Peace Track Meet. The vision of this project, fueled by community leaders and the BC Winter Games Legacy fund, is a proud example of how the BC Winter Games leave behind healthier communities.

Left to right:
Stephen Petrucci, SD 60 Superintendent of Schools 
Dee-Ann Stickel, Vice President Host Society
Darren Snider, President Host Society
Curtis Whitford, PAC Rep Bert Bowes Middle School
Helen Gilbert, SD 60 Board Chair
Angela Telford, Director of Sport Host Society 
Jason Gill, Principal Bert Bowes Middle School

 

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