A nearly complete community centre in Electoral Area F may have lessons for Gabriola as community members consider the need for recreation facilities on the island.
Located in a neighbourhood between Cameron Lake and the Little Qualicum River, the Meadowood Community Centre is 99 per cent built with the aim it will be ready for use by spring 2022.
The single-storey, 4,200 square-foot, pre-engineered steel building includes a community kitchen, meeting space, mezzanine and 2,100 square feet of multi-purpose space with sport court flooring.
The building, fully funded through Area F community works funds, has a $2.2 million budget, which includes a 30 per cent contingency, considered hefty at the time of setting the budget, Dean Banman, RDN manager of recreation services, said.
Located next to an RDN-owned park, the centre is on land the RDN purchased from School District 69; the purchase was funded through Area F’s community parks budget.
The project has been on and off since 2016, Banman said, and began with a plan to purchase two portables from the school district, but the cost of moving them was determined not cost-effective. They pivoted to a design-build. By the time it was complete, the school district announced it no longer needed the land next to the park. Following the purchase agreement, the RDN worked with the Corcoran Meadowood Residents’ Association to hammer out how the centre would run. The group has indicated they are open to running it, but those decisions have not been finalized.
As far as the feasibility of the project, “ownership of the land is pretty important,” Banman said. About a year and a half ago, staff recommended that the project not proceed, concluding that it would be a “good asset but not the best use of funds” at the time and the project should proceed at a later date. But the community group encouraged the Area F director, Leanne Salter, and the board to support the continuation, and the project proceeded.
The community hasn’t been involved in any fundraising thus far; however, discussions have been had about organizing contributions for equipment and furniture.
Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig is open to hearing residents thoughts on a recreation facility for Gabriola. The Gabriola Recreation Society and the RDN are in the early stages of planning a needs assessment for recreation and related facilities on the island. That will include initial conversations with other community groups’ needs that could be supported by a facility, Craig said, “so we’ll be ready for more formal discussions in 2023. In my mind this is the start of a conversation with GRS and the community about their longer-term interest in a facility.”
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder