The Squamish Seniors Centre is under utilized, a point the District of Squamish's 20-year parks and recreation plan aims to change, a consultant told a room packed with the young at heart on Monday (Dec. 3).
The meeting, which focused on the senior centre and seniors' recreation needs, started with an apology. Lees and Associates employee Cathy Matheson addressed sentiments that the district's Parks and Recreation Master Plan public input process wasn't as engaging as the residents had hoped. Aiming to address that, last week the consultants hired to draft the document that will govern how parks and recreation facilities grow over the next 20 years held two meetings with stakeholders. Then, on Monday, the municipality and consultants hosted an open house at the seniors centre for Squamish residents aged 50 and over.
“We want to make this the best facility possible,” Matheson said of the seniors' centre.
That involves breaking barriers, she said. The current $25 membership fee could be considered as one such hurdle, she said, noting some communities have scrapped such charges. At the stakeholder meetings, a number of participants said the fee felt like a “clubhouse” entry charge and caused the facility to have exclusionary feel, Matheson said.
“Maybe it is worth thinking about no membership fee to attract more people,” she noted.
Insurance coverage for the various senior centre programs presents another challenge. Currently, the different initiatives have to come up with their own coverage, a process that has forced a number of seniors groups to find space elsewhere. The master plan looks at the creation of “blanket” insurance for all the programs, Matheson said.
Transportation also came up as an issue. The parks and rec master plan recommends a bus stop be placed close to the seniors centre. Weekends and holidays were highlighted as particularly difficult times to get transit to the centre, people at the meeting noted.
“We want to make sure that your council understands that transportation is a barrier to getting here,” Matheson said, adding that the idea of the seniors centre getting its own van arose multiple times.
Parking at the facility is also a problem, participants said. With only a few spaces spread around the centre, seniors said they're forced to park further away, which presents difficulties for the facility's patrons.
Glenn Rudkin, Squamish Senior Centre Society president, said he was happy to see the society still plays a role in the parks and rec master plan. The society can get liquor licences for its various functions more easily than the district, he said.
The society also has access to a number of grants from which municipal governments are barred, Rudkin said.
“The [society] is necessary,” he said. “We are here to help with everything.”
Since the centre's creation, it was anticipated that its after-hours use — 4 to 9 p.m. — would be opened up to the broader community, Rudkin said. That's highlighted in the parks and rec plan, he said.
“We would like this place fully utilized, seven days a week,” he said.
Squamish resident Bill Berg said he was afraid the master plan will simply be left to collect dust. Ultimately, that's up to the community's residents to prevent, Matheson said. If citizens want to see the plan's recommendations rolled out, they will have to hold officials accountable to them.
The final parks and rec master plan will be available on the district's website –—www.squamish.ca — from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. Online public feedback will also be open between this timeframe.