West Coasters were recently surprised to discover this year’s Ukee Days festivities were the last to be held at Seaplane Base Field as the event is being moved to Tugwell Fields.
Council made the decision to move the event during a strategic planning session earlier this year but Coun. Sally Mole said the district failed to communicate this to the public.
“When the decision came down, I voiced my concerns and asked that a good communication plan be rolled out prior to Ukee Days, which was supported by council unanimously. We failed on delivering this,” Mole told the Westerly in an email.
She said she was “skeptical” of moving Ukee Days to Tugwell and her skepticism was strengthened after speaking with locals at this year’s event.
“My concerns on parking (and) services—hydro, water, and fencing—were echoed,” she said. “Right now, I’m not convinced this is the right location.”
She suggested Ukee Days’ popular Nail Sail Bail event would be a “non-event” at Tugwell and questioned whether parents would feel comfortable letting their kids run around the larger area.
“Also at Ukee Days, I watched the end route of the parade for the first time, and I do wonder how we will manage the logistics on parade end route,” she said.
“My other concern is what impact such an event might have on our very expensive ball fields…and what would the added costs be to making the move?”
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques acknowledged the move’s announcement brought mixed reactions.
“I know that there are lots of different thoughts about the change in location,” she said.
“Our community has worked hard over the years to get our Tugwell Fields in place. One of the goals of the Tugwell facility was to hold community events, such as Ukee Days, at the new location.”
She said the social media chatter, that kicked up when news of the move broke, gave council “lots to consider” and she assured the community’s questions would be addressed.
“Your parking questions, questions around the safety for our children and other concerns will be put on the list of items that need to be considered and addressed,” she said.
“Please bring forward any other concerns and thoughts.”
She added the move to Tugwell could boost the Ukee Days event roster.
“It is much larger than the Rec. Hall venue, for sure, and opens up the possibility of more activities that could be added to the event,” she said.
“We are all so used to the Rec. Hall, that it is hard to picture what Ukee Days might look like at a different location, a big, scary step but change can be good.”
Coun. Mayco Noel agreed and suggested a baseball tournament could be brought in.
He added Tugwell is closer to many residents and its proximity to the Wild Pacific Trail could open up new possibilities.
“What a great opportunity to change up the Logger Sports venue and add a few more items,” he said.
“I want to see it grow with the same qualities that I have experienced at the Rec. Hall. I for one have been going to Ukee days since 1975. I do understand the importance, as my father volunteered many hours for many years ensuring the success of the event prior to the District taking control. I want to see the Rec. Commission take control of the event.”
Noel said he was not surprised to see the concerns raised on social media.
“Social media is the spot that people criticize council or make comments,” he said.
“I am coming up to 8 months in office and wish that more people in the community got involved to the solutions rather than making the one-line cheap shots on social media that, in no way, helps to a solution.”
He added new ideas could be brought to council from Ucluelet’s Rec. Commission.
“I enjoy putting different ideas on the table and this allows for some discussion. We need to look at what the area has to offer,” he said.
“Making the change does not mean the end to an era, it means we want to expand it, and to show the community in a positive light in a more modern location.”
Coun. Marilyn McEwen said the Rec. Commission has been talking about moving Ukee Days to Tugwell for at least four years.
“Tugwell Field is very underutilized, so I think moving this event there will be a very positive thing,” she said.
“There is a lot more room than at Seaplane Base, so it lends itself to some more interesting, different options while keeping the small town festival feel. Residents have been polled and no opposition has been heard to date.”
She suggested anyone currently opposed to the move would eventually come around.
“People are always resistant to change. Once they experience the new venue they will certainly be on board,” she said.
McEwen disagreed with Mole’s assessment of the Nail Sail Bail event and suggested it could continue at the new venue.
“Logger Sports can certainly take place on any field, and the Nail/Sail/Bail can be put together there and then the boats can be transported to the boat launch,” she said.
Coun. Randy Oliwa said the move should not happen without the community’s support.
“I believe there is no real reason to move Ukee Days at this point in time especially with the added infrastructure costs related to the move,” he said.
“I feel if there is not the public support to move it, it’s not a community initiative, and there is no real reason to move the event, then it should say put.”
He was happy to see the conversations on social media and said the district is working to harness its online communication tools.
“It is our hope that the social media portion of the communication platform will bring all of our information into one ‘go to’ location and bring the community, council and district staff together using more of a social media arena,” he said.
“We will still rely on other forms to communicate but we have seen some great success with social media and community engagement from a broad representation of the community and that it impressive.”
He said council would discuss the Ukee Days move again next month.
“Council will be discussing this at their first meeting in September and I would be more than willing to rescind any motion that I did not feel served in the best interest of the community,” he said. “I look forward to the discussion and further debate.”