Greater Vernon stays active with adapted programming through Recreation Services

February 5, 2021

Greater Vernon Recreation Services is taking a close look at where we’ve been and how we’re moving forward together, as the COVID-19 global pandemic continues.

During a recent review of the fourth quarter statistics for Recreation Services, Doug Ross, Director, told City Council that participation and revenue were down significantly across all activity areas, but that several adaptations were put in place to meet health order requirements and provide continued opportunities for community members to keep moving and participate at the end of 2020.

“The impacts of the pandemic have been difficult on all of us for very different reasons,” said Ross. “However, Recreation Services has seen first hand how resilient our community is and how much Greater Vernon residents value chances to stay active.”

Between October and December 2020, public participation was down between 29% – 75% for activities including public swimming, swim lessons, fitness, drop-in sports and playschool gym programs.

“Over the last several months, Recreation Services has been nimble and programming has been tweaked and adjusted, as necessary, to match regularly updated Public Health Orders and guidance from health authorities, senior levels of government, and provincial sport agencies,” said Ross.

“For example, because of physical distancing protocols, our swim instructors have had to keep at least two metres distance between themselves and members of the public, so parents or guardians have had to participate in swim lessons with their kids. It has been a different approach for everyone, but it has also meant swim lessons could be reintroduced to our activity schedules.”

During the last quarter, many community programs were able to operate through Recreation Services, including:

  • 416 swim lessons
  • 10,000 user visits for public swimming
  • 3,140 user visits for fitness programs
  • 2,470 user visits for walking at Kal Tire Place
  • 720 user visits for public skating
  • 525 user visits for drop-in sports
  • 114 children being able to participate in playschool gym programs, with assistance from their parents or guardians

“Due to the extended closure of our recreation facilities at the start of the pandemic, there was a loss of revenue in 2020 of approximately $1.75 million,” said Ross. “That loss was partially offset by a reduction in expenditures – the majority of which, unfortunately, included the laying off of staff. This was a hard but necessary step to take because of the circumstances.”

In anticipation for another challenging year in 2021, Recreation Services has cut more than $1 million in expenditures from the 2021 operating budget with the following adjustments:

  • Removing $625,000 for major maintenance work
  • Reducing staff training
  • Deferring the hiring of a staff position
  • Reducing advertising campaigns
  • Deferring two transfers to reserve funds
  • Adjusting various service levels including:
    • Reducing weekend operating hours at the Vernon Aquatic Centre to 4:00 p.m.
    • Reducing operating hours at the arenas to a 16-hour day
    • Closing the Priest Valley Arena between May and September

“In order to limit the need for further service reductions, user fees were also increased by 5%, effective January 1,” said Ross. “The Greater Vernon Recreation Services funding partners – the City of Vernon, District of Coldstream, and Electoral Areas B & C – also approved an increase in funding of approximately $365,000.”

Ross continued, “This past year was difficult and presented a lot of unique challenges for our community, our residents, and our staff. But we are grateful for the chance to keep finding new and creative ways that we can adapt our activities, improve our health, continue moving, and enjoy all the awesome opportunities we have in Greater Vernon to enjoy indoor and outdoor recreation year-round.”