In one of the first Council meetings of 2021, the City of North Vancouver Mayor and Councillors voted to close down the existing Harry Jerome Rec Centre at the end of 2021 before they even begin building the new Harry Jerome across the street – a reversal of the previous Council’s plan.
This decision was released quietly and without sufficient justification of their rationale. Some user groups were informally told of the decision just hours before it was shared publicly, while others found out from local news sources.
With just over two months left before the planned closure, many residents and users are still not aware of the City’s plan.
A petition urging the City to keep Harry Jerome open was launched on Change.org citing just some of the potential concerns and impact of closing down a busy and well-used centre when all rec centres on the North Shore are already operating at capacity.
Many petition signers argued for the need to keep the centre open, while others shared more personal concerns like “ I am a senior with health challenges and swimming literally keeps me strong and mobile” and “as a partially disabled senior I will not be able to go to alternative facilities”.
In late October, the City finally took time to look at and discuss an interim service plan after the petition received some media attention. Suggestions of what they could do and avenues to explore were shared by councillors and City staff, but nothing concrete has been announced.
One such suggestion was to provide North Vancouver residents with priority registration for programs like swimming and skating. This looks like a great idea at first glance, but will this be truly helpful in ensuring that there will be sufficient opportunities for North Vancouver children?
Do many parents from neighbouring cities bring their children to North Vancouver for swimming and skating lessons, or are these programs high in demand because there are many young families in North Vancouver?
All the user groups of Harry Jerome have voiced their concerns over a reduction on ice or swim time and the impact of that on children, youth and seniors. Lacrosse, however, has a much more serious issue and has been overlooked — Harry Jerome is the only centre where this sport can be played.
With the centre being closed for three to five years, this sport will not be able to survive on the North Shore. The North Shore Indians, a team that is almost a century old and has played out of Harry Jerome since the centre opened, will be destroyed.
As residents of North Vancouver, we expect the City to keep their promises, and we expect transparency when they claim that they are doing what is best for the city.
We need to continue to use our voices to let our local government know what we expect of them. Please join us at 9:30 AM on October 30th, 2021, at the Harry Jerome playground for a rally to keep Harry Jerome open.
Locals can also keep in touch through our Facebook group: Keep Harry Jerome Open
Vivian Chen is a long-time resident of the City of North Vancouver.