Burns Lake council held a meeting last week to discuss the future of recreation in Burns Lake.
Village staff is in the process of creating a recreation master plan for Burns Lake and needed direction from council on the scope of the plan and its objectives.
The village’s recreation department has been dealing with a significant increase in its budget since the Lakeside Multiplex opened in 2014. Memberships sold for the Lakeside Multiplex declined last year – from 812 sold in 2015 to 791 sold in 2016. Squash court use has also been declining.
Some councillors have been raising concerns about the village’s spending on recreation. Earlier this year, councillor Michael Riis-Christianson urged council to reduce the department’s budget.
“I don’t believe that we can do business as usual this year,” said Riis-Christianson. “Some areas of recreation are just not sustainable.”
During last week’s meeting, council discussed if the recreation master plan should focus on the Lakeside Multiplex or be broader in scope – to include municipal parks, hiking trails, mountain biking and cross-country skiing sites.
Councillors decided that the village should first focus on the area which includes the Lakeside Multiplex, Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena, curling rink, Spirit Square, tennis courts, Radley Beach and municipal campgrounds.
“We need to do everything that we can on that property, get that running in the most cost-effective and the most efficient way for the taxpayer,” said councillor Kelly Holliday. “Once we figure that out, we can start looking at municipal parks and municipal recreation opportunities.”
Councillors also discussed the need to set money aside for the replacement of current facilities.
“We were fortunate enough to get a gift from the province for the [Lakeside] Multiplex,” said councillor Susan Schienbein. “I just don’t know if that would ever be forthcoming again.”
“I don’t believe that right now we are actually setting money aside for the replacement of those facilities,” she continued. “So I think we need to be cognizant of that, making sure we are not running on a shoestring.”
Councillors also discussed the need to have a better understanding of what the community wants and needs when it comes to recreation. Although the village’s recreation department conducts surveys with recreation users, there hasn’t been a large-scale survey with the broader community.
“I’d like to see statistics for usage, and ask the community which facilities they want and use,” said councillor Holliday. “Maybe what we have to offer isn’t at all what people are wanting.”
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said it would also be important to include in the survey the economic impact of Burns Lake’s recreation facilities.
“My worry is that if we cut services we might really feel that impact down the road, so if the consultation process can include an impact analyses, that would be really helpful,” said Mayor Beach.
In addition, council decided to invite the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to help develop Burns Lake’s recreation master plan.
“The rural areas of Burns Lake have a symbiotic relationship and, unless we work with the rural directors on this, it’s just not going to end well,” said councillor Riis-Christianson.
The agenda package of last week’s meeting included a letter to council from Burns Lake resident Cory Norman, urging council not to cut recreation services.
“Our town is small, and we need this facility [Lakeside Multiplex] as a place for people to go even if it is just to socialize while working out,” said Norman. “When the world is stressing the importance of staying healthy and active, we should be wondering how we can build this environment rather than trying to diminish its importance.”
Village staff will now gather council’s suggestions and bring back a detailed report within the next few weeks.