Ucluelet is trying to lure locals onto its recreation commission but hasn’t had any bites so far.
The commission is a key shaper of the community’s recreational landscape as it makes recommendations that help direct the district’s focus and funds.
Ucluelet’s municipal council is revitalizing the commission and adopted a revamped terms of reference on Jan. 26 before putting a call out for applicants but had received none by Feb. 10’s regular meeting.
Coun. Sally Mole told the Westerly after the meeting that she was disappointed in the lack of interest.
“It was actually a bit of a surprise, I expected not a lot but even just a couple of responses,” she said.
She suggested Ucluelet’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, published in 2013, exhausted the commission’s members so new recruits are needed.
“A lot of our time was spent on the master plan which is fairly dry, not terribly exciting, not sexy; it’s hard to get a, ‘Yay we did it,’ kind of feeling from the master plan so I think that maybe burnt a few people out,” she said.
“We had some people who were keen to move on the skate park and the bike park and that just seemed to hit barrier after barrier and people did get discouraged, so there may be a little bit of that left over.”
Improvements to the bike park and skate park have since started humming and the commission will also play a key role in determining whether Ukee Days eventually moves to Tugwell Fields.
“Those are three pretty big things and I know there’s people out there that are interested,” Mole said.
“We’ve got to make it fun, we’ve got to make it something that people are proud to be part of and feel like they’re accomplishing something; not going to meetings for the sake of meetings.”
She suggested the commission could also be a valuable fundraising tool and noted her time spent on Tofino’s rec. commission saw a lot of successes.
“We’d pick something from the master plan and fundraise like heck, have a lot of community involvement and it was a lot of fun and people did feel like they’d accomplished something—the thing would be done there’d be a ribbon cutting and everyone would be happy,” she said.
“I’d like to see us go a bit more in that direction. I think it’s more motivation for people to be involved and actually do something hands-on.”
She said the commission is a vital source of on-the-ground information for council.
“If we have a diverse group that can bring all those opinions together, then we get a really good reflection of what the community’s looking at and I think that’s really valuable to help council in their decision making,” she said.
“Parks and recreation is also moving a lot into the health sphere and working alongside health authorities and looking at more of a preventative thing like, ‘Be active or be sick later’…anyone who’s got an interest in park development, recreation programming and building healthy communities; that’s really what parks and recreation is all about.”
Coun, Randy Oliwa suggested an early-year lull might be to blame for the lack of applicants but also noted participation is declining throughout BC and this decline was discussed during a recent Local Government Leadership Academy forum he attended in Vancouver.
“It’s basically happening all over the province,” he said. “Sadly there was a trend within the province resulting in committee and board members getting burned out with no, or very little, new recruits joining.”
He suggested one reason for this might be that the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday model is going extinct and people are struggling to synch their schedules with others to set regular meeting times.
He added though, that other local groups are thriving and suggested council needs to look into making the commission more enticing.
“There’s other groups within our community that are doing amazingly well…It’s not that people are sitting at home, they’re just participating in other things,” he said.
“We as council need to look at it and somehow make it a little more attractive and tweak it a little bit and repost it and hope for the best.”
He believes Ukee’s current baby boom will quickly add to Ucluelet’s participant-roster as new parents look to get involved in recreational opportunities for their kids.
He agreed with Mole that the commission is a valuable resource and suggested it can help identify trends and bring forward new ideas to fill recreational gaps council may not see.
“It’s just a group that comes together to brainstorm and put recommendations forward to council and then we can budget accordingly and get them going,” he said.
“If you’ve got an idea for a program, what better way to implement it than sitting on the rec. commission, getting the support of that committee, having it come to council; we budget for it, boom your program’s operating…I think it’s awesome.”