Arena manager Wayne March listens as Cyril Gosse expresses concerns with a proposed district parks plan during a meeting of volunteer organizations Wednesday at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre.

Arena manager Wayne March listens as Cyril Gosse expresses concerns with a proposed district parks plan during a meeting of volunteer organizations Wednesday at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre.

Volunteer burnout, district parks plan concerns at Recreation Centre Society meeting

A meeting of Sicamous volunteer organizations wound up being something of a group intervention.

Last Wednesday, the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre Society invited other community groups to meet at the rec centre. The purpose, said society president Kathy Morrison, was to reach out to those groups and offer the society’s assistance in co-ordinating community sports and recreation events. What could be concluded by the end of the two-and-a-half hour, often intense, meeting was that Sicamous volunteers are burned out, and could be working better together to meet similar goals. 

Compelling the society to hold the meeting was the current draft the District of Sicamous Recreation and Open Space Plan, which comments specifically on the recreation centre/arena, a Columbia Shuswap Regional District facility.  

The plan recommends that a task force be established that would “review and recommend a new management model for the arena that would allow funded staff to manage the arena and provide other recreation programming services as time permits.” 

The society viewed this as an expression of interest by the district to take on arena management and operations. And, for much of the first half of the meeting, the society and their employee, arena manager Wayne March, expressed their grievances with the plan, stating they were not consulted and arguing that a  district-hired co-ordinator, sought after by Eagle Valley Sports and Leisure, is not feasible in this economy and with the declining number of families in the community. 

“I have a person here that we could bring on for a few extra days to look after co-ordinating and working with the groups,” said March. “Now, in the parks plan, they say they want to hire a consultant for $42,600 and work 30 hours a week to run this place and do everything else. Well, I’ll tell you, they better be pretty fast. Because, in the end, they’re going to need an assistant and you won’t get away with less than $70,000 if you do it.”

Responding to the notion of the district taking over the arena, Mayor Malcolm MacLeod noted the arena society’s contract on the facility is coming up and said that the district would not be doing its job if it didn’t look at options that might save taxpayers dollars. 

“The bottom line here, there’s a lot of connections and conflicts,” said MacLeod. “We have an arena manager that is very involved and he does a great job with the Eagles. And I’ve heard … that if there’s a change in the structure, that the (Sicamous) Eagles will leave and head down to Enderby. Well, I don’t know what to say to that. If that isn’t a threat, I don’t know what is. 

“We’re just trying to see what’s there and do the best for the community. And like I say, the arena society, they’ve done a great job and they may continue to do a good job. They may be running it. I don’t know. All we’re saying is, when it comes to that time, we want to look at it.”

Response in the audience to whether the district should be hiring a co-ordinator was mixed. To a suggestion from society board member Marilyn Birks that a lot of programming co-ordination could be done at the arena via software, Pam Beech, speaking on behalf of Eagle Valley Sports and Leisure, said more is needed.

“That would be great, but there’s a lot more personal, in-the-field, stuff that has to be done,” said Beech. “It takes time. We’re not a community that’s easy by any means to register for anything. There are lots of families that will only be able to attend if they can drop in and pay a toonie… I guess that I’m saying it’s not something we can co-ordinate with just a program, not all of it… It demands people there.”

Others in the audience argued that the groups have to stop competing against one another and work together. 

“We’re all the same people… This is what’s so confusing – we’re fighting ourselves, and that’s what’s got to stop…,” commented Georgia Miller, noting how demographics and the economy, at this time, does not warrant another paid municipal position. 

“We can’t have two co-ordinators, we can’t spend the money like that when we don’t have it,” said Miller. “As a taxpayer we’ve got city hall, we’ve got sewers, we’ve got the train, we’ve got everything. And it’s just so much as we get smaller and smaller. So let’s not act so small and get together and try to work it out altogether. For the children. For the adults to have recreation so we’re not all so stressed out. And we are all the same volunteers.”

After the meeting, Eagle Valley Sports and Leisure president Michelle Wolff maintained that a co-ordinator position is needed in the community. But, she agreed, all community volunteer groups must work together, perhaps through the formation of a “supergroup” to provide a central point of reference and co-ordination. 

March, Morrison and the society concurred that a co-ordinator may be needed down the road, but isn’t reasonable at this time. Regardless, Morrison is hopeful the other groups take up her invite to meet and talk again in the near future. 

“That was the whole idea of calling this meeting, was to say the arena is open for business, and we have a group here who is willing to help,” said Morrison. “And let’s try and work to co-ordinate this out of one building and save the taxpayers a lot of money.”