Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dream of fields

Canada Post could deliver Portage property to make Gordon Bell green again

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HAVE you ever passed Kelvin High School on Academy Road, crossed the Maryland Bridge toward Gordon Bell High School and noticed the vast difference between the grounds of the two schools?

Kelvin has a wide, expansive green field... roughly three times the size of Gordon Bell's field... except it's not a field; it's almost entirely paved with a track. Elm trees overhang Kelvin's field on three sides.

Gordon Bell has about a dozen smallish trees along its chain­linked fence. On summer days the difference is striking.

The south side of the Maryland Bridge is like entering an emerald forest... with the Kelvin football teams in their red and white uniforms dotting the field, a picture reminiscent of Ivy League schools in the U.S... or perhaps the majority of suburban schools in Win­nipeg.

In a country like Canada, where we prize equality and equal access to services like health care, why is there such a disparity between the grounds of the schools?

Thirty years ago I began Grade 7 at Gordon Bell High School, and re­mained there until the end of Grade 10. Back then, the school grounds still had grass. It wasn't the softest of fields, but it was adequate enough for its football team, the Gordon Bell Panthers.

Today, Gordon Bell doesn't even have a football team. It has an Ultim­ate team (a game close to my heart) but to my knowledge they have never won the city championship, as Kelvin has. Diving to catch a disc on the soft Kelvin field and score a point is a somewhat euphoric moment... often mirrored in football. Diving to catch an Ultimate disc on a paved track isn't the greatest idea.

So, I have been wondering for almost 30 years, how could Gordon Bell get a green field the size of Kelvin's?

Located across from Gordon Bell for many years was a large car dealership. For this past year, it has been a vacant lot with a remaining Autopac outlet.

Now, Canada Post has purchased the property. Would it be possible at this stage of the game for Canada Post to relocate -- with the commun­­ity's help -- therefore making way for a new community sports field that Gordon Bell could use?

If the citizens of Winnipeg would rally together -- or if the powers that be decided it was important and worked together -- we could cover this cement lot at Portage Avenue and Broadway with green grass so that the Gordon Bell Panthers football team could make its glorious comeback. We could kick the Gordon Bell Ultimate teams up several notches and provide equivalent green space for their practices and games.

The site could host soccer games in the summer by night... or perhaps sports camps for inner-city youth by day. It could be shared among the community and be the jewel of Portage Avenue -- the way Toronto's newly upgraded Vanier Stadium on Bloor Street hosts games for the University of Toronto.

The University of Winnipeg could share the field with Gordon Bell and have the opportunity to instantly expand its own sports programs -- and inspire the children to take their sports dreams all the way... even to the Olympics.

Visitors to our city could drive down Portage Avenue from the air­port toward the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the taxi driv­ers could say with pride, "Winnipeg is committed to the health of its inner-city youth and recently pulled together with Canada Post to find a way to create this green field for the 1,000 students of Gordon Bell High School and the rest of the commun­ity."

Thirty years ago, and today, Gordon Bell has been home to many youth who have had the opportun­ity to live among nature in the First Nations communities of the North, or overseas in villages or farms, and know the power of a field of green grass.

Gordon Bell is also home to many youth who have always lived in Win­nipeg's inner city and do not know what it's like to have access to a large enough lawn to even throw a ball... or ever have the opportunity for a calming, restorative weekend at the cottage.

I have dreamed for many years of somehow starting a grassroots com­mittee to work together to create a green field equivalent to Kelvin's for Gordon Bell.

Last year, I went so far as to call Jennifer Rattray, director of stra­tegic initiatives for the University of Winnipeg, to pitch my dream to her and get visionary Lloyd Axworthy's ear and support. She encouraged me to start a committee.

After seeing how far the Friends of Upper Fort Garry was able to go in such a short period of time to create a heritage site for the city, in addition to the work of countless grassroots groups that have achieved remark­able success -- including the nature­esteeming citizens of the Coalition to Save the Elms -- it would be amazing if together a number of us could gal­vanize our elected officials and the administration of Gordon Bell High School to create an amazing green space and sports field for the next generation of green, young athletes at Gordon Bell.

Do you believe we need a green sports field in downtown Winnipeg?

To get involved, please e-mail eagle­sanddoves@ hotmail.com.

Nancy Chippendale works as a youth employment co-ordinator in the West Broadway area.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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