A well-used Rutland park would’ve pleased its founder if he were alive today.
Kids play flag football, residents walk their dogs and young adults utilize the green grass for kick ball and ultimate frisbee at Ben Lee Park.
“We just use the space for some of our games. There’s kickball, football, basketball, dodgeball, all kinds of sports,” said Megan Lock, who is part of a multi-sports league that uses the park. She enjoys playing ultimate frisbee on the field.
A playground and skatepark bustles with kids during the spring and summer months.
Ted Sophonow, parks, beaches and sports fields supervisor with the city, said the park is pretty diversified.
“There’s not a lot of bookable space, we just have people come and go as they please and use the amenities that are there.”
In the future, there have been discussions about having dedicated activity space at the park, as there is a shortage of sports fields in Kelowna, but those ideas are currently just talks.
“I know we were looking at the future of the park. We have a lot of green space there, maybe we’ll have some other activities formalized on the site,” said Sophonow.
The park was named after former city coun. Ben Lee, who played a crucial role in the park’s construction with his fundraising efforts. Aptly nicknamed the Mayor of Rutland, Lee served on council from 1973—when Rutland was forced to amalgamate with Kelowna—to 1996.
In 2016, hundreds of people gathered for Lee’s memorial in the park.
Lee, who died at the age of 86, came to Kelowna in the 1950s as the first male Chinese teacher in the B.C, Interior and settled in Rutland, where he taught before moving on to the old Dr. Knox Secondary School.
The park was officially opened in 2001 bearing his name. Lee’s obituary describes his commitment to the community. “While on council, he served as a regional board director and chair of the regional parks committee for 13 years. He worked hard on council to secure park land for the public while also promoting multiculturalism. His promotion of multiculturalism was evident in the early ’70s when he became a founding member of both the Kelowna Multicultural Society and Kelowna Folkfest Committee. He was also a founder of the Kelowna Chinese Cultural Society.”
The city is currently working on revitalizing Rutland’s other main park, Centennial Park. It was originally owned by the Rutland Parks Society, but was sold to the city in 2015 for $800,000.
The overall plan for the park includes the now existing soccer field and all-access playground, as well as future walking paths, a multi-cultural garden, a performance stage, benches and a lit basketball court.
“It will be another main Rutland park, but it will be diversified as a sports field and with multi cultural infrastructure in place. There will definitely be a different flavour to it,” said Sophonow.
“I think both parks are community parks that will be featured in Rutland.”