Members of the Recreation, Culture and Airpark Services Commission (RCASC) are angry this week after being told their service is no longer required.
The FVRD has dissolved the commission, which was formed more than 30 years ago.
RCASC chair and area rep for the Fraser Canyon, Terry Raymond, informed commission members through a letter sent out Monday, Sept. 27, calling it a “difficult decision,” and saying it “will be sad to see it come to an end.”
“I want you to know that dissolving the Recreation Commission is in no way a reflection of how the FVRD values its volunteers and public involvement,” he wrote. “In fact, the Board very much wants to grow and expand opportunities for public engagement in Hope and surrounding areas.”
Bronwyn Punch, one of four volunteers on the RCASC, said the decision to dissolve the commission was made arbitrarily and without warning. In a response emailed to Raymond, she described Raymond’s letter as cowardly.
“That letter was it. Nothing else, and even that letter came second-hand,” she said. “It didn’t come direct from him. I felt that was inappropriate. We could have had a meeting to discuss it. He could have called us to say it was up for discussion. Nothing. For us it’s totally out of the blue and it’s a slap in the face.”
“I was shocked. I was totally taken aback. I’ve never been fired as a volunteer,” added Sharlene Harrison-Hinds, who served on the commission for two years. “I’m astounded and appalled, and everybody deserves to know why.”
When the Hope and Area Recreation Centre was built, the communities of Yale, Boston Bar and Sunshine Valley chipped in with funding. When the complex opened, the RCASC was formed to provide vision and direction for that building as well as the area’s tennis courts and the Almer Carlson Pool.
Members of the committee at time of dissolution were Raymond (Area A elected rep), Dennis Adamson (Area B elected rep), Hope Mayor Peter Robb and volunteers Punch, Harrison-Hinds, Shanon Fischer and Peter Adamo.
The FVRD provided oversight to the RCASC.
The arrangement worked well for decades, but over the past couple years, particularly since COVID hit, Punch said there’s been tension.
“The chair did cancel a number of meetings recently, and again very arbitrarily because we did have quorum and those meetings could have gone ahead,” Punch noted. “We had questions we wanted answers to and the meetings kept getting cancelled, so there’s been a little frustration building for a while.”
“The red flag was all those meetings getting cancelled or postponed,” Harrison-Hinds agreed.
One issue Punch and others were seeking an answer to was the lease agreement, which determines who pays for things at the rec centre.
“Some things the District of Hope is exclusively responsible for, and some of it is joint,” she said. “But that lease agreement has been up for a couple years now and has yet to be brought to the commission for discussion. We kept asking what’s going on because we’ve always felt the public should be advised about these money issues.
“We haven’t been given that opportunity recently.”
Punch fears the lease arrangement will be less transparent without the RCASC, and she also took issue with Raymond’s assertion that dissolving the commission will lead to more public engagement.
“We were always open to the public. The public was always welcome to our meetings,” she countered. “We often had public presentations at our meetings. We did surveys. In the last two years it hasn’t happened as much because of COVID, but it’s always been there. Saying that by getting rid of us, there’s going to be more of that, I don’t see it.”
“We are one of the democratic contacts that make the system work,” Harrison-Hinds added. “People ask us questions. We ask questions on their behalf and give feedback from the community. I feel like they’ve cut off one of the pipelines of information from the public to the FVRD. It’s like having a major artery blockage, on purpose.”
Note: The Hope Standard reached out to RCASC chair Terry Raymond for comment, but he was unavailable as of press time.