The Cariboo Regional District is exploring the option of starting a regional trails and parks service.
“Most regional districts have them,” said Darron Campbell, manager of community services for the CRD, during the Tuesday, May 18, City of Williams Lake committee of the whole meeting.
“What it enables them to do is hold land and give a mandate and provide a budget for the development of and management of parks and trails in rural areas and also in overlapping in the urban fringe areas as well.”
While the CRD has been involved in different trail projects, such as the accessible trail network, it has never had a mandate or structure for such a service, which Campbell said could address a gap that exists.
Taxation would fund the service, enabling the CRD to maintain trails and partner with the construction of them across the region.
The regional trails and parks service would be similar to the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture function which was established in 2008.
Under the Local Government Act, the establishment of a regional trails and parks service does not require public assent, but it does require consent from the participating areas made up of 12 electoral areas and four municipalities, Campbell explained.
“We look to have agreement from those participating partners to allow those areas to be a part of this tax base which would in turn give us a budget,”
The proposed residential tax rate would be $1.65 per $100,000 of assessed value, he added.
An existing sub-regional tax rate that covers swimming pools, arenas and ball fields is about $100 per $100,000 of assessed value, he gave as a comparison.
The idea is to hire someone to co-ordinate trail planning, development and co-ordination across the region.
“We would need a budget to have that staff person in place as well as those arrangements that are in other CRD budgets. I’m looking for about a $200,000 budget to begin with.”
Coun. Scott Nelson said he supported the idea of regional opportunities, but added he wanted to make sure it did not impact Williams Lake’s ability to pursue trail projects and funding.
“Is this going to cross over and knock us out of potential opportunities from the bigger pot of the money?”
In the last three years council along with the community has spent close to $1.5 million on trails and increasing the opportunities for networking in the community, he added, noting close to 80 per cent of that was covered by grants.
Nelson said he’s a huge fan of the arts and culture function, which has been used as a template around the province.
“This could be very similar what we’re talking about but I think collectively we have to have a chat as politicians to make sure we are all working together regionally on this.”
Coun. Jason Ryll asked if the new function would help address the issue of CRD funding for maintenance of existing parks within municipalities.
“It’s another facet of that discussion,” Campbell responded. “Take for example the river valley trail. I see it as a regional asset. I don’t know if solves some of the issues with cost sharing for municipal parks, but it’s certainly an opportunity to look at particularly trail assets.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said before he agreed to the plan, it would have to include everything.
“I would like to see the possibility of a function, rather than piecemealing this all together that would include as much as we can,” he added. “I would like to see an overall function so the whole regional district is part of the function.”
He said he would also want to see First Nations communities contributing money as well.
Weighing in, Coun. Sheila Boehm said as a member of the Central Joint Committee it was frustrating because when the city representatives asked the CRD for funding to help with parks in Williams Lake it was denied.
“It’s a bit of a no-go unless we can part of that further conversation,” Boehm said.
Coun. Ivan Bonnell said he did not agree with developing a new function for taxpayers to pay into without taxpayers having a say.
Campbell has scheduled presentations with 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Quesnel and Wells councils.
100 Mile House mayor Mitch Campsall did not respond to a request for comment.
Campbell said even without 100 Mile House he would not change the $1.65 per $100,000 because of the increase in assessments over the last year and half.
“The number is still valid even if the District of 100 Mile isn’t included.”
If a decision can be made this fall to go ahead with a trails and recreation function then the service would be in place for 2022, he added.