Regional recreation plan on track for vote in Cowichan Valley

After three decades of discussion, the development of a regional recreation plan was finally given the green light

The long-debated question as to who should pay for swimming pools, ice rinks and other recreational facilities in the region is one of the issues the Cowichan Valley Regional District hopes to deal with in a new initiative.

After three decades of discussion, the development of a regional recreation plan was finally given the green light to proceed last week by the district’s board of directors.

Once it’s completed, a public referendum on its conclusions and recommendations will be held in all areas of the regional district during the next municipal election in 2018.

The next step is to establish a regional recreation select committee, that will consist mainly of stakeholders and regional officials, to guide the process.

Members of the committee are expected to be chosen in June, and the process of developing the plan is scheduled to begin in the fall.

John Lefebure, chairman of the CVRD, said the long-debated issue around who should be paying the bills for recreation facilities is one the board hopes the plan will deal with.

He said that in the past, it was the district’s municipalities and larger electoral areas that had the resources and the drive to build a number of recreational facilities in their communities.

“But, quite often, only those on these jurisdictions would pay for them through taxes, even though they were also being used by others in the region,” Lefebure said.

“So now we’re asking ‘Is there a responsibility for all to share the financial burden?’”

Lefebure said “it’s a matter of principle” for many members of the board that the responsibility of paying for recreational facilities should be more evenly distributed.

He said everybody pays school taxes, even if they have no children in the school system.

“These facilities benefit the whole district and makes it more attractive for people to come here to live and visit,” Lefebure said.

“The public will have the opportunity to vote for or against the committee’s proposals, once they are determined, during the referendum.”

A staff report, prepared by the CVRD’s regional manager of community services John Elzinga, said it’s expected the creation of the recreation plan will exceed $50,000, and the referendum could cost approximately $38,000. The board has also earmarked an additional $45,000 in its budget for 2017 for a facility-use analysis of regional recreation centres.