Whitehorse residents cry foul over accessibility issues

Two Whitehorse residents are asking the City of Whitehorse to improve its softball facilities and make them more accessible to people with mobility issues.

Two Whitehorse residents are asking the City of Whitehorse to improve its softball facilities and make them more accessible to people with mobility issues.

Bonnie Dalziel and Dianne Williams addressed members of council at last night’s meeting.

They explained how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs to watch softball games at both the Pepsi Softball Centre and the Robert Service fields.

For example, it’s nearly impossible to get from the parking lot to the concession stand at the Pepsi Softball Centre, Williams said.

“We were watching a game the other day and we were embarrassed that we had to leave the complex to use the washroom,” she said.

Chains at the Robert Service fields, meant to keep vehicles in the parking lot and off the fields, also prevent mobility-challenged people from getting to the bleachers, they said.

Other recommendations to council included the addition of a designated gender-neutral accessible bathroom at the Pepsi Softball Centre, a designated handicap parking spot and extra seating for caregivers with friends in wheelchairs.

As it stands, softball fans in wheelchairs have to sit behind the umpire at the Pepsi Softball Centre, and there are no extra seats there.

Dalziel and Williams challenged members of council to go to the facility and try to manoeuvre in a wheelchair themselves, to see what it’s really like.

Councillor Dave Stockdale asked the delegates if they had approached Softball Yukon, the society that manages both fields, about the issues.

Dalziel said she had, but never received a response from them.

“I don’t need a wheelchair but most friends that I’m referring to are in them, and they just give up,” she added.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said she’d provide a list of the recommendations to PDAC, the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

The accessibility issues were brought up “serendipitously,” Williams said, on the same night council was scheduled to review Softball Yukon’s new lease for the fields.

The non-profit society has operated the Pepsi Softball Centre since 1983 and the Robert Service fields since 1987.

Both were under 30-year leases. City administration is recommending the leases be rolled into one 10-year lease.

In 1986, city council passed a resolution to exempt the society from paying any water or sewer charges for the Pepsi Softball Centre.

Since the properties at the Robert Service fields have never been assessed for property taxes by the Yukon government, Softball Yukon hasn’t had to pay property taxes for them.

Softball Yukon receives annual municipal grants to cover the maintenance costs for the Pepsi Softball Centre. The 2014 grants totaled $22,776 while the 2015 grants totaled $21,724.

Under the new lease agreement, the society would continue to receive annual municipal grants.

Pat Ross, manager of planning and building services for the City of Whitehorse, said that while the lease agreement with the society contains a requirement to keep the facilities clean and safe, it doesn’t “go into the specifics of looking at aspects of accessibility.”

“Putting down a strip of asphalt comes with a cost,” he said.

“It’s not something that right now is a code requirement, but we’ve had some discussions with Softball Yukon about making sure the bleachers are up to code.”

Coun. Mike Gladish asked Ross whether it would be possible to give nearly-expiring leases to PDAC, for them to examine and provide input on. Ross said it was.

The lease agreement bylaw is scheduled to come back to council for first reading next week.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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