Who would think that a cultural master plan would be contentious? But long-term visioning for cultural services in Greater Vernon is getting off to a rocky start.

No sooner had regional district staff proposed a steering team to oversee the development of the plan, and the composition of the group was drawing fire. Specifically, the Okanagan Science Centre and the Allan Brooks Nature Centre were feeling snubbed because they weren’t asked to sit around the table.

It appears that selecting who sits on the steering team is based on organizations who have been fortunate enough to receive annual support from taxpayers for decades, such as the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Left sitting on the sidelines are the science centre, Allan Brooks, the Vernon Community Music School, Gallery Vertigo and other groups who contribute significantly to the area’s cultural spectrum, but don’t get funding or, if they do, it’s only handed out in dribs and drabs.

Shouldn’t all groups have a voice to ensure the broad definition of culture, and the people who are actively involved in those pursuits, are represented?

It just needs to be made clear, though, that being part of the process doesn’t automatically guarantee any group will receive a new grant or continuation of support.

Beyond outside agencies, division over the cultural plan is also coming from within.

Director Maria Besso has suggested the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee form a small working group to “see what the politicians are committed to fund and not fund.”

Besso has insisted that because GVAC only meets once a month, the current structure is overwhelmed with a number of issues  and culture is being shoved off to the side. She believes a working group would allow GVAC to focus specifically on culture and move ahead.

Besso’s argument has some merit because Greater Vernon’s elected representatives have been overwhelmed with responsibilities. There was the restructuring of parks and then revising how recreation facilities are operated. On top of this, there’s been development of the $70 million master water plan, which will go to referendum this fall. GVAC is also in the midst of constructing a running track and trying to determine if the aging Civic Arena needs to be replaced.

With all of those balls in the air, there isn’t enough time to juggle them during a couple of hours once a month.

Either the entire GVAC board sets up additional meetings to focus specifically on culture, or a select handful should be tasked to propose options for political direction.

On top of all of this, the Greater Vernon Museum and Vernon Public Art Gallery are frustrated that creation of a cultural master plan will delay their concept of modern, expanded facilities. And that would be unfortunate as the condition of the current gallery and museum are well known as is the potential for the entire community through enhanced infrastructure.

Waiting for the master plan to be done doesn’t mean the need for a gallery and museum will go away.

Ultimately, Greater Vernon does need a long-term blue print for culture as it’s as critical as recreation and employment opportunities to the overall livability of the community.

But given the rough ride the process is getting, it’s difficult to know what the future will hold.


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