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Football community calls for more involvement in HRM’s field maintenance plans

WATCH: After community concerns were raised, city staff have decided to postpone ‘significant’ grass field maintenance until next year. Alexa MacLean reports.

Members of the high school football community in the municipality are relieved with HRM’s decision to postpone significant grass field maintenance until next year.

They say plans to close fields mid-October may have caused some teams to fold due to not having access to grass fields and having to pay for significantly higher turf fields with limited availability for booking.

READ MORE: HRM postpones grass field closures in response to concerns raised over high school football future

“It’s been very hectic and chaotic to say the least. Trying to scramble to find fields for the teams that I look after to practice on is challenging,” Brian Mason says, the manager of the Sir. John A Flames high school team.

An email was sent to Regional Council members Wednesday evening informing them of the decision to postpone the closures.

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“We had a plan to do some major restorative maintenance starting this October. As you have been experiencing, that has not been well received by some of the users,” Denise Schofield wrote, the director of Parks and Recreation with the municipality.

The goal of the city is to improve overall field quality and according to the email that maintenance is not only significant, it has been deferred for many years.

Councillor Matt Whitman says he heard widespread concern regarding the strategy to close fields early – although, he says information regarding the plan was provided in a lengthy document that was sent out many months ago.

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“Back in February, there was an agreement signed with all the stakeholders that outlined what the requirements were and when maintenance would be finally completed and what not and it was in there, it’s just it wasn’t very clear and I think we need to do a better job communicating so that all the stakeholders won’t be caught off guard,” Whitman said.

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Mason agrees.

He says the community isn’t against the maintenance – they just want to be directly involved in the consultation process.

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“I can say 100 per cent there was no consultation done and yes, it was provided in a document to those who do book grass fields for the sport of football. Although, it wasn’t very predominant in an email that had an attachment that was many pages long,” he said.

Schofield also wrote that staff will work to better inform stakeholders of the maintenance requirements.

“We are also going to work with the Provincial Sport Organizations and other partners to help users better understand the need for the work and impacts of continued deferred maintenance on the quality of the fields as well as mitigate as much as possible the challenges the maintenance will cause,” she wrote.

Mason says he’s hopeful a collaborative effort will lead to the shared goal of improving field quality.

“It does give us 10 months to hopefully speak with HRM and they can hear our voice and our concerns and we can come up with a solution to make it work,” he said.

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