Pemberton takes over recreational services from SLRD 

VOP mayor says move makes sense given plans for new recreation projects

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - New management The Village of Pemberton is set to take over management of the Pemberton and District Community Centre and other recreation services amenities.
  • photo submitted
  • New management The Village of Pemberton is set to take over management of the Pemberton and District Community Centre and other recreation services amenities.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and the Village of Pemberton (VOP) have finalized the transfer of management of the Pemberton and District Recreation Service.

Effective June 1, the service will be managed by the VOP. The agreement will last for a five-year term, allowing both parties to review the agreement and make any required modifications at the end of that time.

"We have retained all of the same staff at the community centre and other recreation staff," said VOP Mayor Mike Richman.

The move makes sense given that many recreational assets sit within the boundaries of the VOP and other slated projects will as well. "The obvious example is our new soccer fields," said Richman, referring to the plan for the new VOP recreational lands that sit off Pemberton Farm Road East.

Richman was also quick to commend the SLRD for its management of the service over the years (it was managed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler prior to that) and underline that no one will be losing their job in the changeover.

"This is an administrative and management transfer," said Richman. "Staff and managers have done an awesome job. It just makes sense at this point for the administration (to run) through the Village of Pemberton."

Governance of the department, however, will continue to be overseen by the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services Committee, which oversees joint services between the SLRD and the VOP and is made up of elected representatives and staff from the VOP and SLRD.

Angela Belsham will stay on as recreation services manager for the department. "She does an awesome job and has a super strong team that works for her," said Richman.

The Pemberton and District Recreation Services operates and programs the Pemberton and District Community Centre, the Youth and Senior Centre, Pemberton Meadows and Signal Fields, as well as the new field on the recreation lands.

The VOP currently has a major project planned for the recreation lands, a $4,224,405 regulation FIFA-sized soccer field and amenity building on the property.

It has applied for a grant from the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Program, a financial-support stream supported with both provincial and federal tax money, to fund the majority of the project, and will likely scale the project down if it cannot secure funding for it.

The VOP is expecting to hear back about its application in December.

"Currently, where our kids play soccer is on leased land from the school district," said Richman, adding that has impeded the VOP's ability to significantly invest in the soccer fields.

Improving recreation amenities remains a major priority for the current council, added Richman.

"We've got an active youthful community, with athletes that punch well above their weight class," said Richman. "We want to make sure we provide these recreational facilities."

Yet when it comes to an indoor pool—something that many in the community want—Richman said that it's still likely a ways off.

"We don't feel at this point we have the tax-base to be able to support that," said Richman, adding that the maintenance alone would present a "huge financial burden on our taxpayers."

According to SLRD Area C Director Russell Mack the transfer deal makes sense and is fully supported on the SLRD side of things. "I think it will work out just fine," said Mack, adding that the entities have been discussing the transfer for years.

"It just seems like it's a better idea for them to be managing all of the infrastructure, and Area C just pays into it as a joint service," said Mack adding that it was critical that no one lost their job in the transfer.

"That absolutely was a priority to me—and I think everyone else," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

Mack said he is looking forward to the evolution of the recreational lands going forward, which are poised to serve as a recreational hub for the Pemberton Valley.

"(It) will be a really nice facility once it's done," said Mack. "It will be great for the community.

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