File photo.

Cumberland considering Leisure Access Program

More subsidized recreation access should soon be coming to Cumberland.

The Village of Cumberland’s recreation department has been studying the feasibility of implementing a Leisure Access Program since the Village’s Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee recommended investigating it to council last year.

A Leisure Access Program (LAP) provides low-income residents free or discounted access to a municipality’s recreation facilities and services.

Such subsidies are common in B.C. and are based on low-income cutoffs for households — $24,328 for a one-person household, $30,286 for a two-person household, $45,206 for a four-person household, etc.

“As a way of fostering community development and inclusion, it’s a great way to reach those people who are struggling a bit and need a helping hand to feel included,” said Leah Knutson, the Village of Cumberland’s manager of recreation.

Cumberland is the last government in the Comox Valley to not offer a formal LAP. The CVRD offers the Providing Leisure Access for You (PLAY) program, while the Town of Comox offers the Town of Comox Recreation Inclusion Program (TRIP).

Conversely, the City of Courtenay offers low-income residents coupon books for discounted access to its recreation programs.

Knutson presented on what an LAP in Cumberland could look like at the Dec. 8 council meeting. She proposed offering one free program and two “50 per cent off” programs per year to qualifying applicants over the age of 15, as well as a free 10-visit pass to either the weight room or the squash courts.

In addition to those, the Village’s recreation department already offers some subsidized recreation programs, including the Parent and Tot program on Tuesdays and Fridays, table tennis for 11–15-year-olds on Mondays, the Rec and Read Summer Camp in July, and a few others.

Though Cumberland already offers the most affordable admission prices for recreation in the Comox Valley, Knutson said a formal LAP would make the village’s recreation facilities and programs even more inclusive.

“Being able to include everybody — and not just people who can afford it — is the ultimate goal. That way they can come in and receive the benefits during this struggling time,” she said.

According to Knutson, implementing an LAP would likely cost the Village about $10,000 per year.

“After the first year, we’ll be able to budget more accurately because we’ll know how many people actually are going to apply and consistently come through,” she said.

After Knutson’s presentation, council approved referring the recreation department’s findings to the Village’s 2018 budget process for further consideration.

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