PROFILE PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLEY KUFAAS PHOTOGRAPHY Tyson’s Thoughts is a weekly column posted every Thursday at northislandgazette.com and in print the following Wednesday. Have some thoughts about my thoughts? email editor@northislandgazette.com.

OPINION: Port Hardy is in need of a community rec centre

Why does the District of Port Hardy not have a recreation centre for low income families to use?

I’ve been debating writing this column for awhile, but never got around to it because I didn’t think the timing was ever right.

Well, the timing might never be right so now is as good a time as any.

Let’s get right down to the business at hand.

I want to talk about the lack of recreation opportunities offered here in Port Hardy, and why exactly is it that we don’t have a community rec centre available for residents young and old to use.

Before someone chimes in, I know we have the Civic Centre here in town, but that isn’t a rec centre.

Why do I say that you ask? Well, from what I’ve seen, most indoor recreation and sporting activities aren’t held at the Civic Centre. Instead, the district recommends people file a reciprocal use agreement with Port Hardy Secondary School to use their gymnasium.

I asked Chief Administrative Officer Allison McCarrick about this and she said council points people in that direction because the district doesn’t own any buildings with gymnasiums.

Her answer makes sense.

And without a reciprocal use agreement I believe it would cost around $25 per night to use the school’s gym, so if you want to save money you have to go and deal with council, who are pretty great when it comes to passing reciprocal use agreements.

With that background information out of the way, let’s look at the community centres available in the Tri-Port.

Port Hardy has the Civic Centre.

Port Alice has the Community Centre.

Port McNeill has the Community Hall/Old School.

I can’t speak too much about the Old School in Port McNeill as there’s no info that I’ve been able to find online with a list of what they offer and what they don’t, but here’s a breakdown of what Port Alice’s Community Centre offers.

According to the Village of Port Alice’s website, “The Port Alice Community Centre offers a variety of activities, programs, and special events. Yoga, Time Out – For Parents, Floor Hockey, and Open Gym are only a few of the weekly options available to the entire community. This great facility offers a full size gym, boardroom, several meeting rooms, a semi-commercial kitchen, and a computer room. Outside, a tennis court rounds out this public facility. The Community Centre also contains the Vancouver Island Regional Library-Port Alice branch and the Port Alice Lions Club.”

I asked former mayor Hank Bood at a council meeting why Port Hardy’s recreation is so lacking compared to Port Alice, and he gave me a pretty standard political response. He also mentioned they wanted to expand the scope of the Civic Centre, but I haven’t seen any new recreation added other than pickleball now being offered there.

It’s pretty impressive how much usage Port Alice gets out of their Community Centre.

I think it’s really neat how the village combined everything into one building instead of having separate halls like Port Hardy and Port McNeill.

If you ask me, the district should have looked at purchasing Robert Scott Elementary School to use as a rec centre when it closed back in 2010.

Feel free to write a letter to the editor and tell me outright why I’m wrong (I’m always interested in hearing opposing views on my opinion pieces, as it really helps me see things from another perspective).

Anyways, I know Port Alice used to have the highest median wage in the North Island thanks to the pulp mill, but even with all the cuts the village has had to make recently due to the mill going under, they still offer a ton of options for recreation that the District of Port Hardy doesn’t.

To be fair to the district, they do have a great ice rink, an outdated swimming pool, tennis courts, a basketball hoop, and a rundown skatepark that has seen much better days.

When I was a kid growing up here, Port Hardy definitely had a lot more options for stuff to do, but it wasn’t the district who was offering it.

From a business aspect, arcades were pretty popular (Playbacks, City Lights), but nowadays kids just play video games online so that business idea isn’t really financially viable anymore. Same with movie theatres, nowadays kids can just watch whatever movie they want at home so there’s no money in showing them on a big screen in town anymore.

Which begs the question. If businesses that used to offer services aren’t around anymore, shouldn’t the district be picking up the slack and offering more recreation in return?

Also, with the staggering child poverty rates here, I’m surprised there’s no boys and girls club available in town. You’d think an organization like that would be a necessity in an impoverished area such as this.

Bottom line, if you want to get low income kids off the streets and excelling in life, you need to be proactive and give them options.

Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: editor@northislandgazette.com

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