Is the curling rink the best use of Cowichan Lake recreation dollars?
Contrary to popular belief, I have nothing against the sport of curling or the curlers that participate in this sport. The issue I have is with the lack of unscheduled recreation opportunities in our area and I believe this situation is the direct result of a major portion of our allotted subsidized recreation dollars going to curling. As a result, I believe curling prevents this area from having the optimal recreational opportunities that are afforded most other towns and areas of this size. I myself utilize some of the recreational opportunities that the Cowichan Lake area provides but I think the Cowichan Lake Recreation Centre itself could be the hub of our town, with recreational opportunities, scheduled and not, all day long providing ongoing health and social opportunities for all ages.
That said, it’s the CVRD Parks and Recreation Commission for the Cowichan Lake Area I and F, who ultimately make the decisions in relation to recreational programs that will be funded and which will not. I am not sure how many people remember the successful referendum on the renovation of the Cowichan Lake Recreation Centre about 12 years ago when we were led to believe that a gym would be included, but it never materialized. So in 2008, the Cowichan Lake Parks & Recreation Commission went ahead with the approved renovations but decided not to follow through with a gym as proposed, yet the curling club lounge was expanded in the renovation. To be fair, the lounge is used for various events and is not exclusive too curling.
With the top notch curling facility now in place, I would like to know where the vast numbers of curling members are today? What about the future of curling in Lake Cowichan? How are we to justify the vast amount of our recreation spending dollars in the Lake Cowichan area? Is the funding of the Lake Cowichan Curling club absorbing funds that would otherwise pay for other contemporary recreational opportunities for the Lake Cowichan and Area I/F community? These are just some of the questions that come up for me and I think many others in our community.
I understand that there is no longer a youth curling league in Lake Cowichan, so where are the curlers of the future coming from? There is a local school program that brings in groups of children for their physical education class, which is a good opportunity to showcase curling for the town youth. That said, how many current adult members started curling through the school program and are these numbers viable to maintain a consistent and robust curling membership in our town? I surmise that there are many afternoons that our recreation centre does not even have one public person inside, only staff, as there are few programs to draw people to our recreation centre at these times.
In July 2019, the Juan de Fuca Curling rink in Victoria, B.C. was permanently closed due to high operating costs cited as the main reason: https://www.vicnews.com/news/west-shore-parks-and-recreation-confirms-closure-of-jdf-curling-rink/ This is not the first Victoria curling rink to be decommissioned and as a demographically dense and affluent community this was a shock to many members of that community and leads me to question the feasibility of curling in a town the size of Lake Cowichan. In addition to not having a youth league, there is also no longer a women’s league in Lake Cowichan, and I understand the yearly number of bonspiels has declined as well.
On the other side of the coin, this past March, part of the Masters Curling Championship was held in the Lake Cowichan Arena, which from what I heard was quite successful. It is events like this that curling members like to put forward for the validation of their recreation program as they do generate good economic activity for our town; however, how many of these events have come to town over the last five years? Are there any contracts for future events that would justify keeping the curling status quo?
Does today’s foundational Lake Cowichan curling membership justify the use of, what I would guess to be close two-fifth’s of the square footage of the Lake Cowichan Recreations Centre? The information noted above is strictly my perspective and as previously mentioned, there was an extensive report that was completed by PERC in December 2017. PERC is a professional recreation consulting group that suggested several recreational options be explored but it seems that at least some of the PERC suggested guidelines or targets for measuring data over the last three years were either not initiated or the information is not accessible to the public. This report can be obtained by sending an email to Linda Blatchford, the manager of Cowichan Lake Recreation, and John Elzinga, CVRD Manager Community Services, to request the PDF: linda.Blatchford@cvrd.bc.ca or john.Elzinga@cvrd.bc.ca
I would strongly suggest that those who have recently moved to Lake Cowichan, Youbou or Honeymoon Bay, or those who would like more from their recreational committee to get involved and advocate for the recreational programs that will attract citizens of all ages.
Thank you for your time.