Electoral Area F recreation commissioner Reg Nosworthy is thinking of throwing in the towel.
After almost 20 years of working on getting much-needed recreational infrastructures built in District 69, Nosworthy is frustrated that the Regional District of Nanaimo board has decided not to take any action at this time and leave matters at the discussion stage again.
Nosworthy is not alone. There are other residents and recreation advocates who expressed disappointment as well as frustration that all the work that has been done appears to be all for naught.
The RDN board, at its committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 19, deferred a motion that proposes to create a OceansideRecreation and Sport Infrastructure Sub-Committee (ORSIS) that will be mandated to review and make recommendations on priorities identified from the Recreation Services Master Plan for District 69 that include expansion of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre; review and consideration of a rubberized athletic track of up to eight lanes; and a centralized land acquisition strategy for a future indoor/outdoor sport and recreation complex.
The board decided to completely withdraw the motion with consent of the assembly. However, the decision was not unanimous. Electoral Area F alternate director Julian Fell, Area G director Clarke Gourlay, Area H director Stuart McLean and Qualicum Beach director Teunis Westbroek opposed.
Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) director Bob Rogers said discussions need to take place involving all the stakeholders before they can proceed with the plan.
At the District 69 Recreation Commission meeting that was held at Oceanside Place, Feb. 21, Nosworthy and some people attending were surprised with the RDN board’s decision.
“We’re supposed to be an advisory group but we’re not even that,” said Nosworthy. “I expressed my very personal emotion about the fact that I have put 17 years into this commission. My frustration is, Tom Osborne [general manager of Recreation and Parks] said they made the recommendation and the board said ‘no’ and we’re going to put everything on hold. How many times are we going to put this on hold and go back into study mode?”
The recreational needs of District 69 have been highlighted in the Recreation Services Master Plan for District 69 that was commissioned by the RDN and completed last year. The same issues were also highlighted in another study that was done in 2004.
“It’s frustrating,” said Ann McVey of the Ravensong Action Group, which has been rallying to have the Ravensong Pool upgraded due to overcrowding conditions. “One of the most disappointing things that I realized at that meeting was the recreation commission really has absolutely no real power. They don’t have the usual credibility that should go with the committee.”
Lehann Wallace, an Area G resident, also expressed the same sentiment. She was concerned about the lengthy amount of deferrals, delays, and lack of leadership in decision-making regarding recreational facilities in District 69.
“I had hope, with the new formation of the group, they would get things to move forward; instead it was such an eye-opener for me to see that level of frustration at an inaugural meeting where nobody wanted to chair it, nobody wanted to vice-chair it,” said Wallace. “The message was loud and clear. It’s advisory only. It’s one board, one voice is what kept coming from staff regarding what the commission can and can’t do.”
Wallace claimed the majority of the new members of the commission, as well as some councillors and area directors, failed to do their assignments and did not read the issues before they attended the meeting.
McVey criticized the RDN board for again recommending more discussions. She feels the decisions are being made by people who lack the understanding of the recreational needs of residents in the Parksville Qualicum Beach.
“I don’t think they particularly care what happens out this way,” said McVey. “I think that attitude is conveyed each time to another newly elected board and by the time the board gets around to doing things we’re back to another election.”
Last year, the District 69 Recreation Commission recommended to the RDN board to direct staff to start working on looking into minimum Ravensong pool upgrade proposal to address critical user concerns, replacement of the old track at Ballenas Secondary School to a rubberized track and field facility, and the search for a suitable land for a future outdoor and indoor sports facility.
The next move was to form a subcommittee that will look into these priorities but the RDN board rejected it as they wanted to hold further discussions.
Wallace said it was almost like the board telling the people at the meeting, “thanks for coming out, but no matter what you say or do, the board’s going do what the board’s going to do. It’s was unbelievable. There’s a lack of the democratic process.”
Wallace questioned how much of the taxpayers money is being spent on the commission.
“This commission basically can’t accomplish anything,” Wallace said. “As a taxpayer, stop spending my money on things that are a waste of time. My taxes are going up, what… 10 per cent in the RDN this year. What does that commission cost me because it certainly hasn’t provided anything for me. And so stop it. Stop spending money that doesn’t work.”
McVey said the new RDN directors, new councillors from City of Parksville and Town of Qualicum Beach, including those from the City of Nanaimo, should be aware that this issue has been ongoing for over 15 years and has been researched and studied extensively.
“This is not a new thing that has to be considered,” said McVey. “It has become a more expensive thing to be considered every year. And the need is becoming more and more as the population increases. It’s quite sad that a community this size have probably some of the worst recreation facilities in the province.”