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The high price of kids’ fun

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I was driving down to St. John’s-Ravenscourt School last night to referee a game, and thinking I’d never seen so many cars parked along Oakenwald.

Pretty much parked everywhere that Oakenwald wasn’t torn up for construction, and the same on North Drive, vehicles parked on both sides wherever that street wasn’t chopped up and barricaded, both sides of the road by the community centre and the ball diamond and around the corner opposite SJR. And forget about parking on South Drive — it was closed for construction at the one corner by SJR, though there were no signs to warn motorists not to bother, before they reached the barricades.

There were wall-to-wall cars everywhere you looked, and little surprise. There was so much construction, and really nowhere to park on the Wildwood Park bays, and so much activity.

The whole area was overrun with kids having fun, accompanied by their parents.

The community centre soccer pitch had several mini-soccer munchkin matches going on. The ball diamond had little kids playing a game, parents in jackets and under umbrellas. Around the corner at SJR, there was not only the 17-year-old soccer match, but the second large soccer pitch was full of those huge bouncy inflatable devices for SJR’s elementary grades carnival. Kids everywhere you looked, having fun and getting exercise.

Somehow, I found a spot open in front of SJR above the soccer pitch.

And what else did I see?

As I came down North Drive, there was a parking commissionaire, ticketing car after car that had found a spot on the side where parking is forbidden. And he soon worked his way around the corner, ticketing all those vehicles parked across the road from SJR on the residential side of the street, where parking is not allowed.

Did somebody in the neighbourhood phone in and complain? Or did someone just know that there would be ticketable vehicles ripe for the picking?

Whom did that parking inconvenience? People living in the bays could still drive in and out. People living across the street from SJR, surely accustomed to activity at the school day and night, could still drive in and out. Given the barricades where North and South drives meet, there was no through traffic.

And no, I didn’t get a ticket, I was legal.

Sure, those people were breaking the law. The signs were there. But there was nowhere to park without walking in from close to a kilometer away, beyond the intersection of Oakenwald and Point Road. For bringing their kids to fun and exercise, many of those parents will have to fork over the price of a parking ticket.

There is a finite number of commissionaires, and an extensive number of places commissionaires can be deployed — who decided that Wildwood Park on a spring evening of family fun was the place to deploy that commissionaire?

Segue while I harumph in self-righteous indignation.

Once again combining soccer and schools, I was supposed to referee tonight at Van Walleghem School in Lindenwoods, but the match has been moved.

Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association decided the field was unsafe. The goalposts were deemed to be unsafe, and there were several holes and dips and depressions on the field.

Sounds like the Van Walleghem field I know, for sure. After that rain overnight, I expect there’ll be several lakes there, the penalty areas probably all under water. I’ve reported one crossbar angling down to the left at one end, though I thought the goalposts themselves seemed fairly secure.

But I got to thinking, a rare though always dangerous thing, and I called Pembina Trails School Division. No, no one had called the school about the condition of the field the kids use for phys ed.

But it turns out that while the field is behind Van Walleghem School, and is generally referred to as the Van Walleghem School field, it’s actually city property, not school division property.

Same thing with the Whyte Ridge School field, which is actually city property adjacent to the school. And there I’ve reported concerns about the safety of the goal posts, and you come across some dips and depressions.

Meanwhile, different subject altogether...

I got an email from a communications firm asking for coverage of a school fundraiser somewhere in the city. Seems the school is raising money for its music program by hoooking up with a car dealership, and the school gets $20 for every family that agrees to take a test drive.

No, seriously.

So I’ve put in a call to the school division to see where this fits with that division’s policies.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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