Hold the City of North Vancouver Accountable
Hold the City of North Vancouver Accountable
The City of North Vancouver reneged on their promise to keep Harry Jerome open while the new location is being built, prioritizing money over residents.
Earlier this year, Mayor Buchanan and the city council unexpectedly announced the plan to close down the existing Harry Jerome Rec Centre at the end of this year after promising that it will remain open until the new building is ready for use. What lead them to make this decision in January during a “closed meeting of council” - a meeting that is held in the absence of the public – is something that the Mayor and the council has kept from the public (a Freedom of Information request was filed but access to the information was denied). The new Harry Jerome building will not be completed until at least 2025. Collectively, we need to hold them accountable to their promise and have them keep the existing Harry Jerome Rec Centre open until the new facility is ready to serve the community.
Why is it so important for the Harry Jerome to stay open for the next three years? Because one less rec centre means that:
· Patrons will be forced to go to a centre that is farther away, less convenient or inaccessible to many, including seniors and persons with disabilities.
· Patrons will have to further compete for already limited spaces in programs and classes in the remaining community centres
· Patrons might choose to use the community centres in neighbouring cities (e.g. West Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby)
· Children from lower income families will be further disadvantaged when affordable extracurricular activities become less available
· Hockey programs for children will decrease due to the lack of ice rink time.
· Delbrook pool, an already extremely popular swimming pool, will face an increased demand because of the Harry Jerome pool closure.
· Parking at and around Delbrook will become more challenging and their residential neighbours will be negatively impacted.
· North Vancouver would only have one lap pool should maintenance were to occur – e.g. Delbrook pool will be closed from Sept. 7 to Oct. 11 due to ceiling issue.
· Chena Swim Club - programs for children and youth to further develop their swimming skills and receive training for competition - will lose their main training pool and more than half of their training hours.
· Aquatic leadership training programs will be reduced
· Staff who were laid-off because of COVID and have not been rehired will not get rehired.
· Many entry level job opportunities will be lost
Community rec centres play a direct role in the health and well being of many residents who depend on the services that are provided. Harry Jerome serves an estimated 272,000 visits annually. Many of those are children and seniors – the most vulnerable population of our society. Programs such as hockey, skating lessons, swimming lessons, and gymnastics programs bring children to this centre to gain new skills. Aquacise, water-walking, swimming, and the gym are popular among the seniors to stay healthy and to stay connected with like-minded friends. The City of North Vancouver has a CNV4ME strategy that recognizes the importance of the health and well being of children, youth and families. And the city states that it strives to “ensure that its’ younger community members have what they need to grow and thrive.” The city needs to meet their own goals set out in the CNV4ME strategy and continue to provide these services at this location to ensure that the needs of our seniors, youth, families and children can be met.
About Harry Jerome Rec Centre
Harry Jerome Recreation Centre is a community centre located off of Lonsdale and 23rd Street. It is a facility that has a swimming pool, an ice-rink and fitness exercise rooms. It houses Flicka Gymnastics Club, provides space for local hockey clubs and Chena Swim Club, and for North Shore ConneXions’ The Muffin Café. The centre was built in 1966 making it the oldest rec centre in North Vancouver. Despite its age, Harry Jerome is a beloved and well-attended centre because of all the programs that it houses and because the staff ensured that it is a community centre in the truest sense of the term.
Harry Jerome is a place where regular patrons visit because of its central location and its full amenities. The bonus is that the staff is always friendly, supportive and welcoming. Prior to COVID-19, the pool and gym had regular users at all times of the day. Early in the morning were patrons who wanted to exercise before heading to work. Masters swim participants were ready to go by 6AM. Change rooms were always full of lively conversations before and after the different swim and senior’s aquacize programs. Swimmers went to the pool to swim to maintain their physical health. The conversations in the change room and coffee shop meetups afterwards kept them socially connected.
The pool also offered a space for swimming lessons for adults and children, swim practice for swim clubs like Cruisers Aquatics and Chena Swim Club, which train many youth who compete at the provincial and national level. Additionally, swim meets and aquatic leadership programs also take place at Harry Jerome pool.
Next door to the pool is Flicka Gymnastics Club. This well established non-profit gymnastics centre has been part of our community since 1962. They serve children as young as 12 months to Olympic level athletes like Shallon Olson.
A youth drop-in program operated four afternoons a week prior to COVID-19 that provided different social activities for youth from ages 12 to 18.
In the wintertime, the rink at Harry Jerome, one of two indoor rinks owned by the city and operated by NVRC, would be used by children and youth early in the morning for their before school hockey practice as it is one of the main rinks used by the North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association and North Van Wolf Pack Clubs. Outside of hockey practices and games, the rink is busy with skating lessons of all levels, public and family skate and all of these various skating activities are popular and well attended.
Harry Jerome Community Centre was a very lively centre prior to the provide-wide lock down in March 2020. The closure of all the centres needed to happen for everyone’s protection. At the same time, the closure took away employment and financial stability for most of the staff via mass job losses and took away one of the most important ways for many of the community centre patrons to stay physically healthy through regular exercise and to stay emotionally healthy with meaningful human connection.
Like other recreation centres in North Vancouver, Harry Jerome reopened in September 2020. Things looked different because all programs required pre-registration. Drop-in visits were no longer available. Despite that, lane swimming, public swim, family or public skates…etc. were often fully booked. Swimming lessons and skating lessons were in high demand; they were filled within seconds of registration opening. With our behavior, we showed NVRC and the city that there is a huge need for all the services the rec centres have to offer - a demand always existed even when all the centres were operating at full capacity . Registering children and youth for swim or skate lessons, or summer camps was never easy. But all the programs operating at a reduced capacity only exacerbated the problem. There is no knowing when these programs can return to full capacity. In the meantime, the city announces that it plans to close down Harry Jerome for at least 3 years until the new building, which is being built on a different piece of land, is completed. Join us in telling the city to do the right thing by prioritizing the needs of the North Shore residents over money and keep their original promise – keep Harry Jerome open until the new location is ready to serve us.
CNV4ME strategy document - https://www.cnv.org/your-government/mayor-and-council/-/media/f7215b6638cd46148d9bf6cbad1d83ce.ashx
In depth information
The City of North Vancouver put together a child, youth and family friendly strategy called CNV4ME which was launched in 2014. This action plan was guided by well established research to support the well-being and development of children as it “is the ultimate indicator of the overall current and future health of a community, a democratic society and good governance.” (p.9 CNV4ME)
The CNV4ME strategy has five key goals, four of which would be negatively impacted should Harry Jerome be closed from 2022 to 2025 (please refer to page 7 of CNV4ME for full description of goals). Goal #4 and #5, however, are most closely affected by the closure of a rec centre.
Goal #4 “To support the development and delivery of a range of high quality programs and initiatives that can be easily accessed by children, emerging adults, youth and families.”
Harry Jerome is situated in a central and easily accessible location for families who use different modes of transportation. The centre provides affordable programs such as swimming and skating lessons in which children from different socio-economic backgrounds can participate. With a swimming pool, a skating rink and a gymnastics facility all co-located in one building, families with multiple children are not limited to choosing one activity at a time. Should this centre be closed for the next 3+ years, the number of swimming and skating lessons offered throughout the NVRC would decrease significantly making enrollment in a program more difficult. The need for some families to travel farther for lessons may make it inaccessible, particularly for those who walk or depend on public transportation. Moreover, families with more financial freedom may choose to enroll their children in private classes, but lower income children are further disadvantaged because of the limited affordable extracurricular (usually rec centre programs) activities available to them. To make matters worse, the Child, Youth + Family Friendly Strategy report cites that 33% of children in the Central/Lower Lonsdale Area are considered vulnerable on a measurement tool used by the city.
And Goal #5 “To continue to foster a highly collaborative environment in which partners work together to achieve positive outcomes for children and youth, emerging adults, and families.”
There are a number of organizations that provide services for children, youth and emerging adults that will be negatively impacted with the closure of Harry Jerome.
Chena Swim Club serves 130 members ages 6 – 19+ in their competitive program with swimmers ranging from introductory to Canadian Senior National levels. Additionally, there are about 40 swimmers in their pre-competitive program. Currently, 52% of their practice sessions (27 hours per week) take place in the Harry Jerome pool. When the pool closes, only some of those hours will be redistributed to other pools. They expect a substantial decrease in pool time available to them and will be forced to explore using pools in other municipalities. This will cause difficulties in recruiting new swimmers and may even cause existing members to move to other swim clubs. Furthermore, reallocating Chena’s swim time in other pools will most likely cause a reduction in the pool time for other swim clubs thereby decreasing the total number of young swimmers and families being served.
Additionally, Harry Jerome pool is the only pool in North Vancouver, that can host sanctioned swim competitions. The Chena Swim Meet attracts more than 250 swimmers from across the lower mainland. They also host up to six developmental swim meets a year for prospective young competitive swimmers.
The Cruisers Aquatics group offers speed swimming, synchronized swimming, diving and water polo programs to children and youth. In a February 16th, 2021 North Shore News article, when asked about Harry Jerome’s closure, their president Shane Hopkins was quoted saying “that’s one of the few places we’ve actually been able to train for a long time. I’m not entirely sure where we will get pool time. As it is, we’re really quite strained.”
Flicka Gymnastics Club is moving into, Mickey McDougall, a space that is less suitable and might not support the needs of their recreational program as well as their competitive program. While Flicka has a future space, renovation to ensure that the new space is usable will take time. Before they can move, there is the possibility of temporary closure which would cause a need to suspend their programs, lay off staff as well as causing youth to miss out on their competition season which will commence in January.
The organizations listed above are a few but not all who will be negatively impacted by the closure of Harry Jerome Rec Centre. The lost time in the water, on the ice or in the gym all translate to lost opportunities for children and youth – the same population that the city has “prioritized”. So let's work together to protect the future of our children and the health of our residents and tell the City of North Vancouver to keep their promise and keep Harry Jerome Rec Centre open until the new centre is fully operational.
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