The Cowichan Valley Regional District intends to put to a referendum a funding model that could finally deal with the decades-old issue of finding an equitable funding solution for recreation facilities in the region.
After reviewing a number of alternative funding models for nine significant recreation facilities in the area, the CVRD decided last year to move forward with a usage-based funding model that would better reflect the proportion of cost each municipality and electoral area should contribute to the ongoing maintenance and operation of each facility.
As part of the process, the nine recreation centres are now undertaking facility-usage studies to assist in the development of the new equitable funding model.
The facility-use data will inform a region-wide public referendum to implement a usage-based funding model to be held in conjunction with the next municipal election in October, 2022.
The nine significant recreation centres being studied include those operated by the CVRD, Municipality of North Cowichan, Town of Ladysmith, and the Chesterfield Sports Society.
They include the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Cowichan Community Centre, Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Cowichan Sportsplex, Ladysmith Frank Jameson Community Centre, Fuller Lake Arena, Kerry Park Recreation Centre and the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre.
Currently, recreation projects and complexes in the CVRD are planned, built and funded piecemeal by self-interested areas and municipalities within the regional district, rather than by the regional district as a whole.
This has led to years of in-fighting amongst areas within the CVRD competing for recreation projects and dollars, including funding for the maintenance and operation of the facilities.
Ian Morrison, the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said it has been a running joke in the district for some time that if you don’t want to get anything done, you should work on regional recreation projects.
He said that during the renovations at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena 10 years ago, he saw a picture in the facility of local people and businesses coming together to build the centre decades before.
“There were no big grants and local communities came together to build a lot of these facilities, and that’s where local pride and ownership have come into play,” Morrison said.
“We’ve done a lot of work and the majority of the regions and directors now agree that if we are to do it [find an equitable funding model], it should be done this way. This is a regional initiative and there is a reasonable expectation that there could soon be a funding system in place that’s fair for all people in the region. It would be a solution to a 50-year-old problem.”
The facility-use analysis is ongoing until March 2022, and will be used in conjunction with a similar study that took place in 2017.
The intent will be to average the two data sets to provide reliable results capturing the people using these identified facilities.
When the public drop-in at these recreation facilities between now and March 2022, they may be asked for their street address to be used for this purpose.
The results of the facility-use analysis will be released to the public in the late spring of 2022.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the funding issue has been percolating for many years as people from across the CVRD use each other’s recreation facilities.
“We have people from North Cowichan going to Kerry Park Recreation Centre to go curling, people from Lake Cowichan going to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre and so on, so we really need to find a funding model that’s fair to everyone,” he said.
“There has been an increasing awareness of the inequities in funding for the facilities, and I think that the fact that it’s the will of the board to move forward with a new funding formula is a positive sign. It’s been a 50 year process and I’m optimistic we’ll get to the finish line.”