Former Bateman student has recommendations: Number one, stop the conversion of the playing field into a parking lot..

By Oubaida Ikharbine

February 5th, 2024



Morning, my name is Oubaida Ikharbine.

I am a proud and loyal citizen of Burlington and alumni of Robert Bateman High School. I’m here to speak on a matter that is not just close to my heart, but resonates with the heartbeat of our community. The preservation, protection and defence of the running track and field at the future Robert Bateman Community Center. The City of Burlington has taken an admirable step toward sustainability and community building by re-purposing the Robert Bateman high school into a multipurpose asset. However, the initiative has been marred by controversy division and scandal to the issues with with plans prostheses and, and reports surrounding this project.

Oubaida Ikharbine: “The running track and field which has been a cornerstone of our neighbourhood for numerous decades should not be turned into a parking lot,”

This has put a crucial element of our community’s fabric at risk, not only the running track and field which has been a cornerstone of our neighbourhood for numerous decades, but also the setting of a dangerous precedent that will surely be judged by future generations. Instead of protecting, defending and upgrading our already limited running tracks and sports fields. Our little corner of paradise in southern Ward five, the city has decided to make way for divisive and irreplaceable plans to build parking spaces. What someone likes to call the million dollar parking lot. This secret area is more than just a piece of land. It is a place where people come together to build friendships, enhance their physical and mental health and foster a sense of community. sporting groups come here to play and practice. Both fitness and leisure groups benefit from the existing infrastructure from the students of ascension from NAC elementary schools, who use it for gym and sports activities to our seniors, to our senior residents and young families, which you could save space for exercise and leisure. This space is a testament to the importance of an active and connected lifestyle. It is not just a 400 meter track and field. It is a symbol of our community’s vitality. It represents a future that is not centered around our current society, but a window to what could be for future generations. It is a part of our community’s DNA. It is our duty to protect it, not to destroy it. I like many others have grown up around this communal space. It’s where I’ve spent countless hours my friends enjoying the greenery and vibrancy of our community.

During the pandemic. It was one of the few places that served as a portal to a place of peace and solace without breaking any health guidelines. Today, it continues to thrive. It is a popular hub of activity during the warmer months. It is one of the only track and fields in southern Burlington that is open for free and public passive use without requiring a permit to be purchased. This communal landmark is a part of our identity and collective memory inspired by the delegation of Rachel Murphy, a fellow council member and various community members. I feel it is my duty as part of my civil service to carry the voice of those who feel unheard in this democratic process. The lack of proper and necessary public engagement is clear. There has been mixed messaging, misinformation and a lack of empathy for the community’s wants and needs, especially considering the trauma had to endure with the school closure.

Where is the parking going to be – and how much parking should there be?

The lack of proper public engagement is turning parts of this project into a fiasco by going forward this outrageous proposal to destroy a secret communal space some could argue the only one of its kind in southern Burlington. We are changing Burlington unofficial model to live, learn and play in this city to live, learn and park your cars. This is unacceptable. I’m here today to voice these concerns. And frustrations on the public record. And to say that enough is enough. We must find a new way forward to ensure this project success without destroying the community’s DNA. A shift away from cars has been deferred from generation to generation with a climate crisis unfolding political instability and the want to protect ensure that Burlington continues to be the best city to live in. My generation has been tasked to start what will be uncomfortable, but necessary change to the mechanics of our society. We understand the need for parking solutions for incoming tenants. However, demolishing a piece of our community soul for parking spaces is not the answer.

Oubaida Ikharbine: “By adding a parking lot and destroying this precious space, we are perpetuating the problem of a car centric city.”

The Burlington of the 20th century was designed for cars, but we cannot continue to subsidize driving cars and finding places to park them. Our future generations won’t be driving our cars anymore. That’s assuming we have enough fuel left to run them or can still afford them. It’s essential to plan for a city that doesn’t need to rely on them.

By adding a parking lot and destroying this precious space, we are perpetuating the problem of a car centric city. We have repeatedly suggested alternative parking solutions, such as underground or structured parking, utilizing nearby land for parking facilities or incorporating a bus pass into Brock University’s tuition. And increasing bus frequency during peak times. These solutions preserve our communal space and align with our city’s sustainability goals. We must plan for the future and pass on this asset to the next generation considering their needs and best interests. We cannot predict the future but we can use forecasted trends and societal innovations as a starting point to strategically plan for an inevitable car less society, a society where we take back our green spaces where they coexist harmoniously with public transit. A plan for the future that’s not in this room today, but instead at school enjoying the trucks and fields that they play on without worrying about paradise being paved over to put up a parking lot. The decision to close our school what was already a de facto community hub was made without our proper democratic input, leaving a lingering feeling of trauma for all those in the community. We fear that this is continuing with repurpose of the building today.

We have ideas on the Get Involved portal where an avenue public engagement is encouraged. An idea that received the most votes keep the track and field as his lawn signs have been distributed to spread information and awareness of the petition that has garnered over 860 signatures and counting. All screaming the same message stop the parking lot conversion. questions have been asked that mentioned the trauma and horror that was felt and endured by the committee the by the community during the park process only to be told the use of the park and the fate of the track will be will be determined by the mandated and legislated parking needs. How is this a respectful and mindful approach to community engagement? Today my generation who witnessed and was directly affected by the outcome of that decision stands to ensure that history does not repeat itself. We demand a transparent, genuine engaged engagement in the decision making process involving every concerned citizen we are not just demanding our truck and field, our communal Civic Center be left alone. We are advocating for preserving a legacy, a space that embodies our community spirit and resilience in order to be a productive member of society. It is my right to come here today and voice my concerns. But it is also my responsibility to be constructive and provide solutions to these issues. As a result, we are asking for the following four initiatives to be undertaken.

The communication strategy employed by city officials needs to shift the tone from parking needs to emphasizing community engagement and involvement.

Number one, stop the parking lot conversion.

Number two, establish a committee of citizens to review the staff report and act as a community advisory and steering team this committee should assess adjust, offer feedback and highlight the good aspects of a project that uses over 100 million taxpayer dollars. No topic should be off limits, including questions on asbestos removal, the purchase of the building green space modifications and parking issues. All decisions must adhere to the proper democratic principles, ensuring we are accountable to future generations seeking answers from history. The committee will gather community feedback and draft a detailed community report. This document will lay the groundwork for future efforts allowing for direct community involvement in the in the decision making process. It is crucial to provide a forum of direct democracy for this project. This group should be known as the Citizens Advisory Committee validating the community’s contributions and concerns.

Number three, provides communication strategy employed by city officials shift the tone from parking needs to emphasizing community engagement and involvement in this project. Ensure that messaging reflects a genuine commitment to understanding and fulfilling the desires of the community while eliminating elements that are not well received.

And number four, postpone the transfer of the Brock University Programs for one year. This delay will allow sufficient time for thorough evaluation and final decisions be made on numerous parts of this project, taking into account the community’s feedback and committee’s recommendations.

The In closing. I urge city council and all stakeholders to consider the profound impact the sacred space has on our community. We have the moral and ethical obligation to honour the history the heritage and the values it represents. We have an obligation to make a well informed, engaged and ethical decision that we and future generations can be proud of our decisions should should prioritize community engagement, social democracy, sustainability and unity over mere convenience based on yesterday’s parking needs. Let’s preserve not just an act of sanctuary, but the heart of our community. Let us make sure we do not set a very dangerous precedent that would destroy and threaten our running trucks and fields throughout this city. For the sake of putting up parking lots Thank you very much.

It was an outstanding delegation.

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4 comments to Former Bateman student has recommendations: Number one, stop the conversion of the playing field into a parking lot..

  • Jan

    I totally agree with everything that was said and support it 100%. What is your plan on getting people together, where and when? Also, where is the petition so we can sign it? Have people at Shoppers, Tim Hortons with petitions for them to sign, other places as well, to get as many signatures as possible. Gather people to protest outside of City Hall, get the students involved by handing out flyers as to what the city is doing. Let us know, I’ll be there for your first meeting. I admire what you are doing and standing up for trying to save this space. Hope to hear more.

  • David

    This dude does have a point or six, he’s been educated in our modern public system that teaches climate change is man made and we have an ever decreasing smaller window to turn it around before he and his friends will not be able to survive it’s effects, but what he and his friends are experiencing is a complete contradiction to these teachings by elected officials and he rightfully called them out on it.
    Are they about to learn that, ‘but in the real world’ lesson you know the one we all learned after leaving school, or should have unless we went straight to a government job, politics or teaching position.
    Will they also learn that governments at all levels are really crap at being on the other side of the counter i.e. in business, or maybe they will notice the smaller contradictions that there teachers, government workers, media etc don’t take the bus to work and even the bus drivers drive cars to work and that all of the above have parking spaces over what was once green.
    Have they learnt that the great unwashed who, they have been taught, are the main culprits of the assault on their future lives, but in actual fact are a mirror image of there future selves.
    Will they learn the word elitism at school or university and its true meaning, will they also learn, for balance, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
    The whole Bateman thing was just a disaster waiting to happen, when a project goes south you either throw money at it or sell it on and lick your wounds, the last lesson for today dude, which one do ya think it will be?

  • Syd

    What a wonderful, thoughtful letter written by Mr. Ickharbine – I think he should consider running for Mayor!
    It is unfortunate that we live in a city where we are invited to give our opinions, but are never listened to, no matter how cogent the argument – be it condo height, road widening, preservation of greenspace or etc., etc., etc.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Oubaida, I wish you and your community well. Mayor Meed Ward once stated, “Once the full renovation of the Robert Bateman High School site is completed, it will provide 213,000 sq.-ft. of community space (118,723 sq.-ft. of net new community programming space), both community rental space and long-term paying tenants, plus greenspace.” Source: It does not look like paving over the track will help with, “plus greenspace”. Maybe, minus greenspace, when all is said and done.