Lake Cowichan has plenty of beaches

Lake Cowichan has plenty of beaches

Town still pushing for Lake Cowichan swimming lessons

Lake Cowichan’s mayor and councillors would like to see swimming lessons for local families come to the waterfront community.

Lake Cowichan’s mayor and councillors would like to see swimming lessons for local families come to the waterfront community.

It was a hot topic at the town’s latest parks and recreation committee meeting.

Council invited John Elzinga, general manager of community services at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, to address the matter because, according to Coun. Bob Day, there had been no room for discussion last fall when the CVRD did not approve a request for swimming lessons in Lake Cowichan.

“The ‘no,’ right away, didn’t sit well with me because we’d like to discuss what the cost would be,” said Day.

In November, the Cowichan Lake division of the CVRD’s community services department issued a report to the Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission, not recommending the implementation of a swimming lessons program in the town for summer 2016. Elzinga echoed this report, which cites “the infrastructure deficit at locations in Lake Cowichan” and the $15,000 in additional costs required to hire two staff to run the program.”

Currently lessons are only offered at Arbutus Park in Youbou. The report stated that the commission would be “willing to look at alternative means to transport swim lesson registrants from Lake Cowichan to Arbutus Park.”

The mayor and councillors wanted to know why the lessons and staff are exclusive to Arbutus Park.

“Why can’t they come to Lake Cowichan to teach lessons?” asked Mayor Ross Forrest. “Every other swimming beach, wharf, everything in the whole west end here doesn’t have life guards. Why couldn’t those life guards, say, one day teach lessons at the Duck Pond, the next at Arbutus Park?”

Forrest emphasized the town isn’t asking to have the life guards in Lake Cowichan full-time.

“We’re willing to share,” he said. “But council just feels that there’d be more kids participating in the program because let’s face it, Lake Cowichan has a heck of a lot more kids than Youbou.”

Parks and recreation committee members also raised concerns about a 2013 “Aquatics Viability Report,” which examined five potential swimming lesson sites (the Duck Pond, Saywell Park, Lakeview Park, Bear Lake Park and Lily Beach) and found none of them a suitable location. The committee accused this 2013 report of being inaccurate and biased.

“If we do have some deficiencies we’re not meeting — and as I say, we weren’t satisfied with the last report — but if [Cowichan Lake Recreation] could really point out what those were, we’d like to know so we can make some upgrades,” said Forrest.

Elzinga encouraged the town to ask Cowichan Lake Recreation to put that on their next agenda to potentially look at an updated report on possible swimming lesson locations.

He also said he could not respond himself to suggestions of bringing life guards from Arbutus Park one day a week or rotating them to other communities around the lake.

“This really is a Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission discussion,” he said, which is made up of three partners Area F, Area I and the town.

“Since 2004 when the Cowichan Lake Recreation first came together, it really has been a partnership where all three areas fund programs. And I will say the majority of programs are in the core area of Lake Cowichan,” said Elzinga.

“If we start bringing all of the programs into the core, there may be a funding issue.”

The Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission’s next meeting is Feb. 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the arena for budget discussions.