The question of regional recreation funding in the Cowichan Valley Regional District continues to fuel mixed reactions.
The contentiousness of the Cowichan Aquatic Centre’s (CAC) two-tier system, whereby Duncan and area residents pay one rate and Cowichan Lake and area residents pay another keeps tongues wagging, as recent letters to the editor in our paper have shown.
At one time, there was a Cowichan Lake Leisure Pool Society, presided over by then-Lake Cowichan resident Terry Pool, a group of people who went to bat for many years to have a public swimming pool built in the town. The society even went to the expense of having architectural plans drawn up for the proposed pool that would have, in 2002, cost $5.2 million.
Pool suggested that a public swimming facility would have added a lot more to the town, and that swimming (unlike hockey) is an activity that can be done by people of all ages.
At the time, the town was in the midst of undertaking renovations for the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena and it wasn’t financially viable to consider another recreational facility.
Fast forward to 2009 when the CVRD’s regional services committee prepared a report that detailed different funding rates to be considered as options when deciding how the whole area should be taxed on recreational facilities.
These ranged from the equal-share concept (uniform tax rate on all CVRD portions regardless of location) to the multi-tier tax rate (primary users living closest to facilities paying full rates, lower rates for folks living farther away) to the regional/sub-regional model, whereby certain facilities are fund regionally (Cowichan Theatre and Cowichan Sportsplex) and other facilities funded sub-regionally (CAC). It was agreed that a pseudo-referendum would be the fairest way to bring constituents’ voices to the district.
The voice of Lake Cowichan residents and those of the surrounding electoral areas showed that they were more concerned about developing recreational facilities close to home rather than bleeding off tax revenues toward Duncan and North Cowichan, and the town decided not to buy into the CAC. In fact, of the whole of the south area of the CVRD, only residents in the Cowichan Bay area opted into the CAC financially, thus qualifying them for the lower of the two-tiered rates for pool users.
Which means that today, Lake Cowichan residents see their tax dollars going directly toward funding facilities and projects that they are likely to be using — for example, the new library that just got underway at the beginning of the year — instead of going towards a regional facility that many people can’t access or won’t be using.
Still, it isn’t a cut-and-dried affair, there are still those who want it (see letter in this issue from Louise Doherty and in the previous issue by Ted Gamble) and those who are vehemently opposed (letters, Hubert Crevels).
In fact, Gamble and Doherty are part of a delegation that will be taking the issue to the town council meeting, Feb. 5. They have created a Facebook page, as well, “Lake Cowichan needs access to the Duncan pool,” for comments and ideas.
It may lead the town to reconsider the options for having a pool in Lake Cowichan. To be sure, it is a shame for those Lake Cowichan residents who want to swim, to not only have to pay for their transport to and from the facility, but also once there, must pay an increased rate because they don’t live in Duncan.
Many questions remain unanswered as to how the situation can be rectified. The town tried to voice the opinion of the residents two years ago, but it is often said, nothing is written in stone.