Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A new outdoor space that will include a running track and beach volleyball courts will soon be a reality for Liverpool Regional High School (LRHS) and South Queens.
The project, which has been several years in the making, is nearly shovel-ready and is expected to be completed by September of this year. The project centres around the eight-lane, 400-metre track surrounding the soccer field.
"It's exciting. We have a large proportion of our students that are part of the track-and-field team, but they don't have a proper facility to train on," said Todd Symes, vice-principal at LRHS and chairman of the Queens County Track Association, the lead organizing body for the project.
Athletes have been training by using the bus loop and parking area.
The project has been on the books since about 2013, but several hurdles prevented it from getting past the planning stage.
In December 2018, a plan was brought forth that featured a track going around the soccer pitch as the main focus for the project. Once that was built, additions like a basketball court might be added.
However, since that time, focus groups that have been made up of students put their ideas forward, and finalized what they wanted to include in the project. They also decided they wanted to do everything at once.
"We wanted something the kids would be proud of. They were the ones that designed the whole thing and orchestrated the whole plan," said Symes. "The vision for the project is to make our school the focal point and a gathering spot for the community."
Student council co-president, Raya Stewart, is happy all students had a part in the project.
"It wasn't just a one-or-two person thing. We had lots of meetings and discussions with the student body and got all their ideas," she said, adding the project was part of the vision for the student council.
Co-president Jordyn Duffney noted the project was "part of our platform when we were running to get elected."
Both said their favourite part is how everything is accessible for the entire community.
Meanwhile, student Mihaella Downey's class has studying the Mi'kmaq culture and the stereotypes that many people have.
She said she is proud to be a part of planning the Mi'kmaq learning forest trail.
The project now includes an eight-lane track, an upgrade to the soccer pitch, accessible community-use raised-bed gardens, two beach volleyball courts, a fruit orchard, basketball courts and multiple outdoor classroom areas.
The Mi'kmaq learning forest trail will feature interpretive signs with images that can be scanned. The image will link the user to information about Mi'kmaq culture and heritage, beliefs and traditions. The trail and amenities are being organized by their Mi'kmaq class and teachers.
The total cost of the project is about $350,000. So far, $65,000 has been raised through grants and donations.
Symes said the school and students are working on fundraising, applying for grants and gathering donations. They've approached the area's business community as well as alumni.
"The community, in general, has been very supportive and excited about the project, and I am confident that the generosity and compassion that surrounds us in Queens County will help us reach our goal," said Symes in an email. "A large portion of the community were involved in extracurricular events while they were in schools here and will understand the need for these facilities for their own families moving forward."
The Queens County Track Society is spearheading the project with several partners such as the South Shore Regional Centre for Education and Nova Scotia Health, along with numerous individuals.
Donations can be made by going through Canada Helps – South Shore Regional Centre For Education and choose 3. LRHS – Track.