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CVRD votes in favour of supporting Mountain Centre on Mount Washington

The regional district committee of the whole approved Tuesday a recommended $60,000 contribution over the next five years to the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society to support the Mountain Centre at Mount Washington.

Pending final approval of the budget at the end of the month, this year's contribution will be $20,000, though there will be no tax implications due to tweaking of the recreation grant service. Another $20,000 will be awarded in 2014, $10,000 in 2015 and $5,000 each in 2016 and 2017.

The district gave the society $38,000 last year.

The non-profit VIMSS raises funds for skiers, snowboarders and other amateur mountain sport athletes. Since forming in 2003, the society has raised more than $80,000 for athletes.

Various groups have rented space or stayed overnight at the centre since construction was completed in December 2011.

"I believe that Mount Washington deserves a little bit of a hand up on this because it's a world-class facility," said board chair/Area C director Edwin Grieve, who swapped seats with vice-chair/Courtenay director Jon Ambler for the item.

Grieve said the mountain is the "single biggest economic driver in the Comox Valley," and noted the centre is both a sports and cultural facility.

"There's a wide cross-section of programming happening," said VIMSS vice-chair Don Sharpe, noting quilters and other groups not necessarily "mountain-related" have used the centre.

The society expects to eventually be self-sustaining, but Sharpe said it needs temporary assistance to "take us into the future."

Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule was the lone committee member opposed to the society's funding request.

While she considers the mandate laudable, Sproule questioned if taxpayer dollars should be used to fulfill it. She does not support the full amount because she feels the centre draws a limited audience. She suggests supporting rural projects.

• • •

The committee deferred staff recommendations to commit funds to potentially host the 2015 or 2016 BC Seniors Games, which the Comox Valley and Campbell River co-hosted in 2010.

"It is far too soon to even consider hosting these Games again," Comox director Patti Fletcher said. "It is a lot to ask of our community, and a lot to risk."

Grieve, noting 2015 is Courtenay's centennial year, suggests the Valley could swing it again with a "slightly different bunch" than last time.

The 2009 Games in Richmond drew 3,900 athletes and injected more than $2 million into the business community, according to the Seniors Games Society.

"I think we owe it to our community to look into this," said Courtenay director Starr Winchester, noting obligations to the Valley's business community.

Staff had recommended a $10,000 commitment to Seniors Games activities in 2014 and $20,000 in 2015.

Sproule suggests putting the money aside for a future bid.

"We don't want to burn people out," she said.

"I have concerns we may be premature here," Area A director Bruce Jolliffe said.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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