Indoor recreation space needed in Tofino

The Wickaninnish Community School gym is on its way to becoming more youth-specific and this has Tofino’s recreation team running through options for the community’s grown up recreation population.

The gym’s stakeholders-School District 70, the Wickaninnish Community School Society, the school’s Parent Advisory Council, Tofino, the Tofino Recreation Commission and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation-met on Jan. 12 to discuss its use.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne spoke to the meeting during last week’s regular council meeting in Tofino.

“For the past two years, the district of Tofino together with Tlao-qui-aht first nation has had an agreement with the school district for the use of the school gym during after school hours,” she said. “During those hours the school gym was effectively being rented from the school district and various user groups had access to do things like badminton, basketball, floor hockey and other recreational activities.”

Tofino and Tla-o-qui-aht’s agreement with SD70 came to an end in June of 2014.

“The fact that the school gym use agreement for the current year was still being discussed between the parties created an opportunity for everybody to think more about the most appropriate use of the school gym,” Osborne said.

She said she went away from last week’s meeting carrying several key takeaways.

“First and foremost that the school gym is an integral part of the school,” she said.

“It is owned and maintained by School District 70 and, by extension, the Wickaninnish Community School Society should have as much access to it as is required to run the programs that contribute to the school’s mission of supporting the intellectual, social and emotional health of students.”

She said SD70 is reviewing its policies around community schools-Wickaninnish is one of three community schools within SD70-and how these schools’ resources would be allocated.

“School district 70 intends to bring more focus to children and adolescents as well as at risk youth and their families,” Osborne said.

“Effectively I think this means that we can anticipate seeing more programming in the school gym to support those groups and that lessens the opportunity for the other types of activities we’ve been seeing like adult recreation activities.”

She added that Tofino’s lack of indoor recreation space was not lost on the meeting’s stakeholders.

“It was universally acknowledged by everybody present there that community members of all ages need indoor space for recreation and the needs of school children and adults aren’t mutually exclusive,” she said.

“It was clear to all the stakeholders that indoor spaces for the community’s recreation needs are in short supply here in Tofino and while we’ve been making the best use of an existing asset, the school gym, this asset can’t meet the current and growing needs of Tofino and Tla-o-qui-aht communities for indoor recreation space.”

She said the district plans to work with the community school society to identify any unused gym times that could potentially be rented out for adult use.

“I also fully expect that the Tofino Recreation Commission is going to be discussing the outcome of last night’s meeting and in due course making recommendations to us, council, about the future of indoor recreation space in Tofino,” she said.

“It’s been a really difficult time for recreation users and I know there’s been a lot of frustration and I also know that the solutions still aren’t going to appear overnight but I’m really confident that last night’s meeting turned a corner in the relationship between the different stakeholder groups and it’s given us some new ground to discuss the best ways to meet the long term needs of the community.”

Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly after the meeting that he is excited about the direction recreation is heading towards.

Recreation is under Rodgers’ community sustainability umbrella. He said last week’s meeting clarified the different roles that various organizations are playing in regards to delivering recreational opportunities in Tofino.

“I’m excited to be working with the recreation commission on exploring opportunities for Tofino to develop its own recreation facilities and I’m excited to be working with the Wickaninnish Community School Society to offer youth recreation opportunities at the gym-and hopefully to be able to offer some adult programs once the youth program slots have been populated,” he said.

He said Tofino’s only indoor recreation space currently is the community hall, which he does not believe caters to a wide enough gamut of recreational and athletic pursuits.

He said any conversations about bringing additional recreation space to Tofitians would be started by Tofino’s recreation commission.

reporter@westerlynews.ca