The two skating rinks in the Columbia Valley will now be maintained by tax dollars from one regional recreation service area instead of two. At a Columbia Valley Directors Committee meeting on September 6, bylaws to merge the Canal Flats Recreation Service with the Columbia Valley Recreation Service, and to dissolve the Canal Flats Recreation Service were passed after it was discovered residents in Canal Flats and the southern portion of Area F were paying decidedly higher property taxes than their more northern neighbours towards the upkeep of their respective arenas.

While the new regional recreation service area still doesn’t include the entire valley — residents from Edgewater, Brisco and Spillimacheen are still not required to contribute to arena maintenance — this is  something that the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is looking to change in 2013, said RDEK Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie.

“Definitely the RDEK is committed to discussing the issue with residents of Edgewater, Brisco and Spillimacheeen in the new year,” Wilkie said, who will be holding public meetings at that time to discuss extending the northern boundary of the Columbia Valley Recreation Service Area.

It was around the time when the Village of Radium Hot Springs was incorporated in 1990 that Radium voted to pay towards the Columbia Valley Recreation Service while Edgewater voted not to. However, this situation is no longer acceptable to Radium residents, according to Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor Dee Conklin.

“We’re calling it the Columbia Valley recreation service, Spillimacheen to Canal Flats, and there had been no discussion about the three communities not being part of it yet they should be; if we’re paying, everybody should be paying,” Conklin said. “We’d like to see all players at the table, because we all should pay for recreation, all of us.”

While her council supported the creation of one single recreation service for the whole Columbia Valley in principle, they initially didn’t support the bylaw because the new service area still did not represent the entire population it served. But after the September 6 directors’ meeting whereby the bylaw was passed without Radium’s support, Radium council opted to rescind its opposition and approve the adoption of the RDEK bylaw on the basis that the three Area G communities will be brought into the Columbia Valley Recreation Service in the new year — effectively making it clear to the Province that the entire area supports the bylaw, which has been forwarded to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for approval. The two other communities in Area G, Wilmer and Dry Gulch, are already paying for the recreation service.

“How can we call this a Columbia Valley service area when the whole Columbia Valley isn’t in it, and that’s what Radium’s initial statement was; we agreed in principle but we’d like to see all players at the table, because we all should pay for recreation, all of us,” Conklin said.

The inclusion of these new tax dollars will drop the current recreation service tax rate by just one cent per $1,000 of assessment yet these residents will see an annual increase of $25 to $35 depending on the assessments, said Wilkie. But the bonus of having a co-ordinated recreation service for the Columbia Valley area will be higher quality recreation amenities across the region should the service expand beyond the two arenas to include, for examples, ball fields that are currently maintained by volunteers, he said.

This sets the foundation for a more comprehensive regional service, agreed Conklin.

“It’s just we needed to start with something and the two arenas was a wonderful way to start,” she said. “And in future… hopefully we’ll get in the baseball diamonds and a few other facilities down the road but we needed to get this one done and done quickly so it could be initiated in January 1.”