Cumberland wants to do more to make recreation opportunities more accessible.
At the latest meeting, council supported a motion to expand the region’s Leisure for Everyone Accessibility Program (LEAP).
“That was implemented as a pilot project earlier this year,” said Ryan Parton, the interim manager for parks and recreation.
The other partners in the Comox Valley Regional District had already supported expanding the program. The one-year pilot project started in January.
The program had been aimed at youth 18 and younger to start, but it will be expanded to include all residents.
“The idea would be that it would apply to all ages,” said Coun. Jesse Ketler, who also chairs the regional district board. “We just started off with kids to sort of see how it would work.”
She also said it was great they could make moves to support families.
The village also is making changes to its own Financial Assistance in Recreation program (FAIR) to replace current admissions and member benefits with a 50 per cent discount on programs for up to $350 a year. The change is retroactive to July 1, 2022.
“Currently, we’re the only municipality in the Valley that doesn’t have a program component to our low-income program,” Parton said.
Parton noted there had also been interest in summer camp offerings with Ukrainian refugee camps in the community.
Prior to the change, FAIR offer eligible residents 19 or older either 50 free recreation admissions or a half-priced annual membership, but the cost breaks could only be applied to drop-in activities and not registered recreation programs.
Last fall, council had directed staff to look at changing the eligibility requirements for the FAIR program.
“It’s something that we should have done a while ago,” Mayor Leslie Baird said.
When asked about cost implications, Kevin McPhedran, who normally manages parks and recreation but has been filling in as deputy chief administrative officer, said staff expect the costs can be absorbed within the operating budget, especially with increased recreation use. He added staff will monitor the cost situation and can make adjustments, if necessary.