The closure of the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre at the end of 2021 for at least three years eliminates an estimated 1,000,000 public recreation spots on the already-underserved North Shore. Hundreds of good paying entry-level jobs and leadership-training opportunities are also gone. The credibility of the Mayor and Council is tarnished by this poorly publicized revelation through local news. The image of the “healthiest small city” vision is so much lip service as so many will lose access to recreation opportunities.
All this, to save the City from using internal cash reserves likely earning negative real interest or borrowing at the lowest interest rates ever for bridge financing to start the New Harry Jerome construction with the current facility still open.
Instead, the City of North Vancouver appears to have decided to take an advance on the Harry Jerome Neighbourhood Lands (HJNL) lease at an unknown interest rate in exchange for giving Darwin Construction immediate access to the entire Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre site before any HJNL construction has started. This is a radical deviation from the published plan.
Mayor Linda Buchanan in an interview stated that users and user groups should have known that there was a possibility that Harry Jerome could be closed early. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true that a staff report buried in the motion to scale back the already Council-approved Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre tepidly included a mention of Pay Parking and Early Closure of Existing HJCRC as possible cost saving opportunities to be studied.
In the February 25, 2020, report from the City Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives and Services, they do indeed mention that “There is potential to close the existing HJCRC complex prior to the completion of the new facility… [to] reduce the requirement for bridge financing.”
However, the very same report goes on to caution that the “…Harry Jerome complex (comprised of three buildings) serves more than 272,000 visits per year through a wide variety of services, plus special events and space rentals. The centre provides 1,570 programs annually for 7,800 registrants. Rentals bring in another 5,400 visits.”
Finally, the report concludes with the damning assertion that “It will be a significant challenge to find alternate spaces within the neighbourhood.”
These points were not included in the “Prioritization of Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre Components and Associated Projects” motion presented to Council on March 9, 2020.
In the months following the decision to scale back the previously approved Harry Jerome Rec Centre, there are no hints that early closure was under discussion until after a closed meeting of Council on January 21, 2021.
A few days later, the City of North Vancouver announced that the Harry Jerome Rec Centre was closing at the end of 2021 while the new Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre was being built.
These clandestine tactics and misinformation going back to the 2018 elections should give electors pause in the upcoming 2022 election.
Mike Dowling is a member of the North Shore Aquatics Society.