qathet Regional District's (qRD) board will consider a staff report into allowing volunteers to help in the region’s parks.
At the August 12 committee of the whole meeting, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne gave notice of motion that the committee recommend regional board direct staff to investigate the possibility of permitting volunteers to contribute toward parks and Powell River Regional Cemetery and report back to the board with policy options.
Gisborne said public parks have a long history of being started, run and maintained by volunteers, before his time on the regional board. He said some of the resistance he’s hearing about the regional district acquiring new parkland is the cost of maintaining, upgrading and looking after the new parkland, if it was to buy a new park.
“This community was built by volunteers and service clubs,” said Gisborne. “While networking at a past convention, the topic of volunteers in parks came up. The City of Nanaimo has created a volunteers in parks program that I was directed to, and my understanding is the program utilizes the talents, skills and energy of volunteers to maintain and beautify those many new and old open spaces, parks and trails.
“Anyone can volunteer their ideas, hands, time or supplies, ranging from an individual to a group, like a neighbourhood association or service club. Small businesses are encouraged to participate in the program.”
Gisborne said volunteers in the parks program in Nanaimo, which is called VIP, can have projects such as putting a flower bed on a traffic island, or it can be as ambitious as developing a neighbourhood playground.
“The intent of this motion is to get a report from staff so we can orient the regional district to support volunteers and reduce barriers that may exist for public participation,” said Gisborne.
Electoral Area D director and committee chair Sandy McCormick said she agrees with Gisborne.
“It’s important that we fully involve our community in ways they can contribute,” said McCormick. “It seems to me that helping with park maintenance or upgrades is one way people can participate. I’ve been approached by several different groups of people on Texada Island who want to improve or clean up areas such as Shelter Point Regional Park.
“In discussion with our staff, I’ve been advised that insurance issues make that really difficult, although we insure the Outdoor Recreation User Group to do that kind of maintenance on the mainland. Having some clarity around what volunteers can do in our parks would be very helpful to those of us at the regional district and the general public, who will then have an opportunity to participate.”
City director George Doubt said he would be interested in reading a report.
“I think, of course, staff will take into account the requirements we have in the collective agreement with regional district staff,” said Doubt. “That’s probably got something to do with who does maintenance and construction, et cetera, in parks. We’re lucky to have cooperation with unionized staff at the regional district but I don’t want to jeopardize that.”
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said he has participated in many volunteer projects and it’s always fun to see those people who take part in it take ownership of it.
“It’s a great way to build community,” said Brander. “I look forward to reading a report to see if there are opportunities there.”
The committee unanimously voted to send the matter to the regional board for consideration.