BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Vision is required

Culture and sports should be on the same team in seeking public dollars

A running track and sports fields are moving ahead after Saturday’s referendum.

But that’s just the first step in Greater Vernon.

The recently established North Okanagan Sports Society insists there’s a need to establish a 20- to 30-year plan for sports and recreation infrastructure.

“We look forward to connecting with the sporting community throughout the region to learn more about their organizations, the long-term needs for their sports and future events they have planned,” said Akbal Mund, society president.

And the wish list is significant.

Civic Arena is on the verge of being decommissioned so that means there will be a push for another sheet of hockey ice. Speed skating and gymnastics are currently under-served by facilities as is motocross. Minor fastball would like to see a concession facility at Grahame Park so tournaments can be hosted while the present swimming pool is inadequate for the Kokanee Swim Club and a growing community.

But one has to wonder why the North Okanagan Sports Society’s mandate is so limited?

If there truly is an interest in moving the community into the future, then eyes must also be cast towards the cultural pursuits.

And while that may seem like a stretch, sports and culture have a lot in common.

Both can inspire our youth and foster passions that carry them for a lifetime. They  can also keep our seniors vibrant and active, while bolstering the economy through tourism and providing the amenities new residents and investors seek.

The other common link is that cultural and sports infrastructure have been allowed to languish in Greater Vernon. Case in point are the art gallery and the museum.

There will be those who roll their eyes and insist their taxes shouldn’t go to things they will never use. But one should remember that communities are a collective, not individual enterprises and the paying of taxes are partially about supporting what’s good for the whole. I don’t use transit or seniors programs, but I don’t mind paying for them because of the broad impact they provide.

Others will contend that taxes should go to essentials like roads instead of so-called luxuries. But the reality is, that even if Saturday’s referendum had failed, there wouldn’t automatically be $7.5 million for roads. This was a one-time proposal for a sports facility funded by all of Greater Vernon whereas roads are the individual responsibility of the city, Coldstream and, in the case of the electoral areas, the provincial government.

One can also make the argument that by providing amenities that tourists and new residents want, that an expanded tax base will allow communities to more readily tackle the infrastructure deficit.

Obviously fiscal restraint is always critical as taxpayers — and I am one — cannot be considered a bottomless pit for every concept that comes along. Unfortunately, though, infrastructure — whether it’s roads, sewer, sports fields or culture — have been ignored for so long and catch-up is going to be costly.

And that’s why co-operation is required.

Culture and sports should not be considered rivals for limited public dollars. They should be on the same team, ensuring that a vibrant, healthy community develops in a financially viable manner.

The North Okanagan Sports Society is a good first step, but there needs to be more to the vision.