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Braefoot Community Association 'cautiously optimistic' about returning to clubhouse

Saanich issued a request for expressions of interest this week from groups wanting to use the two-storey structure, and the group plans to apply
Braefoot Park Centre at the corner of Braefoot and McKenize Avenue in Saanich. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The Braefoot Community ­Association is considering ­putting forward proposals to run programs and services at ­Braefoot Park Centre, two years after the District of ­Saanich refused to renew its long-term lease on the facility after 34 years.

The municipality issued a request for expressions of ­interest this week from groups wanting to use the two-storey structure, which has 8,300 square feet of space, with a small banquet hall, meeting room, kitchen, concession area and change rooms.

The centre is adjacent to natural and turf fields used by amateur soccer and lacrosse clubs in Saanich’s Braefoot Park.

The municipality owns the building and maintains the grounds and infrastructure in the surrounding park as part of its regular operations.

Sean Nacey, chairman of the Braefoot Community ­Association, says the group is “cautiously optimistic” about getting into the centre. “On ­reading the Request for ­Information and Expression of Interest, our before- and after-school and daycare programs would seem to check all of the boxes,” he said.

Nacey said it was initially difficult to “wrap our heads around” losing the clubhouse, which was home base for the association for more than 30 years. But the group pivoted and started offering its child-care programs out of Ecole Marigold and Braefoot elementary schools during school hours.

He said the association currently has no home base and, because everything happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, board meetings have transitioned from in-person to meeting on Zoom every month.

“In an odd way, the whole experience made us look at the bigger picture. Having said that, it would be amazing to get back in the building,” said Nacey.

Tiana Solares, recreation senior manager for Saanich, said the district wants to hear from organizations offering programs and services that align with one or more of its parks, recreation and community services focus areas, including nature-based learning, opportunities for equity-denied groups and childcare.

“Right now, we’re gathering information to gauge interest and determine needs for new opportunities in these areas.”

Saanich stresses that any potential new programs and services will not affect existing groups that use the park, fields and facility.

One thing the Braefoot Community Association would like to be able to do is access the building for its annual summer camps at the park. The group was able to continue holding the camps even after losing access to the facilities over the past two years, but it was logistically challenging.

“We could hold the camps, but it was a hassle. We had nowhere to store our equipment, so we had to pack up everything every day,” said Nacey, adding the facility would also offer bathroom access during programs.

“Currently we have no home base, so we are hoping perhaps to even rent a small office in the facility to work out of.”

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