Perhaps the toughest part about chairing of the West Shore Parks and Recreation board is ensuring that six very different municipalities all feel content with the society’s direction and initiatives.
The West Shore’s diverse voices, coming from growing and non-growing communities, and a problematic system that gives any municipality veto rights, continue to make the post a challenging one, said Colwood Coun. Rob Martin, who will soon step down as chair after four years in the position.
He nonetheless said the board has worked especially hard the last few years to maintain a high level of cohesiveness, and he’s pleased with what they’ve been able to accomplish.
At the forefront of those accomplishments is the annual Rock the Shores music festival, which has brought in high-profile Vancouver Island and international artists to perform at the Juan de Fuca fields every July since 2012. The three-day event has been so successful that it’s become one of the society’s major revenue sources. The festival brings in more money than an entire season of either the Victoria Grizzlies or Victoria Shamrocks, for example, which are basically break-even initiatives for the organization, according to Martin.
“Rock the Shores meets a lot of needs within our community,” he said. “And it’s one of those things that I don’t think our community recognizes how important it is, and how important it is to support that … it’s something that I think adds a lot of value to the joy of living here on the West Shore.”
View Royal Mayor David Screech, who held a position on the board under Martin until 2014, also pointed to the festival’s success as a major coup.
“I think one thing that’s happened under (Martin) are events like Rock the Shores, and different events to raise alternate sources of revenue for West Shore Parks and Rec have certainly improved,” Screech said.
Other important moves during Martin’s tenure include welcoming the Velox Rugby Football Club (now Westshore RFC), which moved from lands owned by the University of Victoria; upgrades to several of the organization’s facilities, and the successful hosting of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling at The Q Centre earlier this year.
Martin travels a lot for work and said he makes a point to check out recreation facilities in each of the communities he visits.
He believes the variety of facilities on the sprawling Juan de Fuca site in Colwood are something the community can be proud of.
“It’s a gorgeous facility that I don’t think we recognize how lucky we are to have,” he said.
Martin also points to balanced books and a solid revenue stream from user fees, which made up over 50 per cent of the organization’s revenue in 2015, as a significant accomplishment.
As of now, it’s uncertain which board member will take over as chair.
Martin plans to focus more on his work with the Greater Victoria Public Library board, where he currently sits as vice-chair, while still maintaining an active role as a West Shore Parks and Recreation board member.
Moving forward, he would like to see the board’s veto system changed – a move that would, ironically enough, require 100 per cent approval.
Screech agrees with Martin on that subject, preferring a ‘two-thirds’ system of governance.
The View Royal mayor would also like to see more active engagement between the organization and the municipalities it serves, including regular updates at council meetings.
“They need to reach out more and find out what the municipality’s plans and desires are, because I think there’s been a bit of a disconnect between the municipal councils and West Shore Parks and Recreation,” he said.
“And we need to figure out a way to bridge that so that we’re all on the same page and we’re communicating.”
Major projects on the horizon include a skatepark – potential sites are being explored by Parks and Rec. staff and a local coalition – and an increased need for newer and larger facilities, as Colwood and Langford continue to experience growth.
At times, differing needs between an urban community like Langford, which has constructed a number of its own recreation facilities, and a rural municipality like Metchosin has created tension. With that in mind, Martin stressed the importance of compromise as a key to the organization’s future success.
“Each municipality recognizes the importance of the health of our community and our long-term health is only going to be successful if we work together. If we start being individualistic about it, we’re not going to be successful,” Martin said.