Members of a Vancouver Island slo-pitch community are stunned after their long-running league was denied its events permit for the upcoming season after four decades in play.
The Saltair Slo-Pitch League has been operating for 40 years, but a Cowichan Valley Regional District committee has denied its application to use Centennial Park this season.
In an Electoral Area Services Committee meeting, Lynne Smith, Area G director, brought up concerns about the slo-pitch league, and says the group has not complied with the events permit.
“There was concerns with the smoking with the drinking with the during the extreme fire hazard time there was multiple cigarette smoking going on,” Smith said in the meeting, also noting there were concerns raised about people urinating in the park.
However, Amanda Redpath, one of five executives of the Saltair Slo-Pitch League, says the concerns raised by Smith don’t accurately reflect the entire situation.
“There has been some isolated events, but we’ve definitely addressed them case by case,” Redpath said. “I mean, it’s a large recreational adult league so issues do definitely arise, but we deal with them and we try to mitigate those concerns.”
Redpath says in regards to public urination, the league took measures to address the issue.
“We got in trouble for public urination, but it was that somebody mid-game had run off into the bush and then gone to the bathroom, which yes, was not cool,” Redpath said. “We totally reamed our team out and then from there we problem-solved with CVRD…and so we paid to have an outhouse at the park.”
As for smoking concerns, Redpath says the league steps in to stop people from smoking at ballparks.
“As soon as we see anyone smoking we’re like ‘hey, you can’t do that’ and we tell all the coaches you can’t have people smoking on the field,” Redpath said.
The motion for discussion also notes last year the league had arranged a beer garden, but had not applied for a special events permit to serve alcohol in the park.
Redpath admits that was a mistake, but the league shut down the beer garden as soon as the issue was brought to their attention.
“We still got the liquor license, but we forgot to get the special events license through CVRD,” Redpath said. “We actually shut it down like within an hour. We just were like ‘OK, we made a mistake.’ We shut it right down, which the teams were a bit disgruntled about, but we did like no drinking, no nothing for the year-end tournament.”
In the case of one team that was being disruptive, the league took steps to address the situation, said Redpath.
“There was one team that was a little bit rowdier than the rest and it was just too much and so we told them ‘sorry guys, this is your last season,'” she said. “We just decided as the executive we can’t take the risk because it would ruin it for everybody, so we told them they’d have to find somewhere else to play.”
“So we have those difficult conversations. It’s not like we’re all like ‘screw you’ and we just do what we want.”
At the Electoral Area Services Committee only Director Ian Morrison voted against denying the permit.
The CVRD board will make a final decision about the permit at a meeting on April 13, and Redpath is hoping members of the board will decide to approve the permit.
When CHEK News requested an interview with Smith, she sent an email statement instead.
“Based on the number of complaints and concerns received by the CVRD Parks staff regarding the Saltair Softball League’s non-compliance with the CVRD Parks Bylaw 738…in 2021 and prior years the Staff brought the application forward to seek direction for denial or approval,” the statement said.
“Times have changed with more Extreme Fire Hazards. The massive wild fire destruction in the Monte Lake area they attribute to one cigarette. Last year we watched Lytton burn to the ground. Local wildfires in Copper Canyon and later Mt. Hayes. The CVRD Parks bylaw 738 is in place to protect the amazing parks owned by the CVRD and to protect the communities surrounding them.”
Lori Iannidinardo, Area D director says she anticipates the motion will be pulled for discussion when it comes back for a final decision.
“I’ve never received so many emails and phone calls in the whole 14 years I’ve been in politics,” Iannidinardo said. “It’s really important for the community, that’s for sure.”
She says she spoke opposed to denying the permit during the meeting, but didn’t vote in the final vote at the Electoral Area Services Committee meeting.
“I think if there was some bad behavior that needs to be looked at, there should be sort of a three strikes thing to reevaluate, not just deny,” Iannidinardo said. “But I could just see where the vote was going, so I didn’t bother voting.”
Penelakut Tribe also has some teams who participate in the league, and Redpath says although there are other leagues in the region, the Saltair Slo-Pitch League had developed a relationship with the tribe to ensure they could participate.
“We’ve been working with them for so long that like we know the ferries, we know what works,” Redpath said. “Then we meet on our AGM and their coaches let us know ‘OK, just remember if you’re booking us for a tournament, we can’t make the first morning games, we have to be a bit later because of the ferry schedule.’ So they might not be able to play in other leagues.”
Denny Jack, councillor with Penelakut Tribe, says he was disappointed to hear about the permit because his family has been involved in the league for years.
“We’ve been playing for generations,” Jack said. “I got to play with my uncles and aunts, and now I’m getting to play on the same team as my kids.”
Jack says members from the tribe had put together two teams for the league in previous years, and this year a third team planned on joining.
“That’s probably 54 people, if not more, affected by this. We love the sport,” Jack said. “Most of our Chief and Council played in that league at one time or another, we’re really big supportive trying to get the league going again.”
He says in his experience the league has been very quick to address issues when they’ve come up.
Jack says the Penelakut Tribe council plans to submit a letter to the board in support of the league continuing.
Redpath has also been putting out calls on the Saltair Community Page on Facebook, asking for people to submit letters for the permit.
“I’m getting messages nonstop about this since I posted on Friday, because there’s so many people that are like ‘we were wondering when ball was starting,'” Redpath said. “I’ve actually even had community members come knock on my door to share their stories and ask what they can do to help. Everyone is up in arms about this.”
Redpath says she is hoping the the permit will be approved at the CVRD board.
“I just want to be able to play ball,” she said. “I just want my community to still be able to utilize the ball fields.”