Groundwork is still needed for the Nelson Regional Sports Council before it can gain a seat and a say on the Nelson and District Recreation Commission No. 5, says the commission’s chair.
Keith Page said Thursday in a letter to the council that someone from the NRSC must attend a few public commission meetings before a seat is considered — but an NRSC representative has yet to attend a commission meeting over the last few years, nor provide public comment on the business before the commission.
“The commission strongly believes that any user group advocating for a permanent seat on the commission should first take the opportunity to attend public commission meetings,” Page wrote.
“This allows user group representatives to understand the work being undertaken and to ask questions during the public time.”
The commission provides the regulatory and financial guidance for the city- and regional district-owned recreation facilities — including the Nelson and District Community Complex — and is made up of three city councillors and two regional district directors.
On April 12 the NRSC sent out an open letter to the community, claiming it had been “ignored by the Rec 5 commission and the municipalities thus far as to have any of the recommendation put forward by the task force paid for by the tax dollars of the community.”
The NRSC further requested a voice and a permanent seat on the commission.
Page said an NRSC open forum invite on April 11 — which he attended — was not sent to all commissioners and commission staff of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), nullifying any attempt at “productive community dialogue” and “authentic and respectful engagement.
“From our perspective, commissioners were either not given the opportunity to attend, or not given enough advance notice to allow those commissioners who were invited to attend — let alone the neighbouring municipalities referenced in the letter,” he wrote.
Electoral Area F director Tom Newell, who also sits on the commission, attended the forum.
In their letter, the NRSC contended that all commission members were invited to attend.
“Sadly, the representatives of Rec 5 commission either declined via email or chose not to attend without declining except for two,” the letter stated. “The invites were posted and promoted over the course of several weeks in the local papers while being emailed directly to each of the Rec 5 commission and other associations.”
The NRSC had hoped to foster “collaboration between the RDCK and municipalities and offer insight and balance from the user groups” with a permanent seat on the commission.
But the opportunity for the NRSC to offer its input on the recreational scene in Nelson has been there, with commission meetings not closed to the public or any user groups, said Page. In fact, user group delegations have been welcomed to every single monthly commission meeting, he stated.
“We have heard from a number of user groups as they navigate the difficulties of COVID-19, long-term sustainability, growth and succession management, which provides clarity to the commission on opportunities and road-blocks,” Page said. “Attendance at public commission meetings by these user groups has led to the development of meaningful conversations and collaboration to solve problems.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems in the delivery of the service, Page admitted. The NRSC letter had implied a divisive environment as it related to the delivery of recreation services and access, with some sports groups not able to gain adequate representation of their needs.
“We acknowledge that some user groups are frustrated by the planning and implementation of the long-term strategy for Nelson and District Recreation, and that there is frustration from important rural participants in the Nelson-centric focus of the past,” he said.
“These are the exact issues the commission has been wrestling with to address the concerns of the service review that is currently underway.”
It all came back to the need for groundwork, said Page, with the NRSC encouraged to attend the public meetings — available on the RDCK website.
“Each of us has the opportunity to have a say in civic conversations. We encourage everyone to contribute with respect, thoughtfulness and fair intentions,” he said.
NRSC co-chair Dave McCulloch could not be reached for comment until May 9 when he was contacted via email on April 24.
Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily