Recreation issue must be dealt with now

Derek Montague
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Summer is here and it’s finally warm and sunny in the Big Land. People can take their dogs for long walks and go for brisk jogs around their neighbourhood. It’s excellent for everyone who wants exercise but doesn’t want to be tethered to a gym membership.

But summer is short in Labrador and winter is long. Soon, it will be too cold to get hours of exercise outdoors — unless, or course, you enjoy certain winter sports like cross-country skiing.

For those who prefer just going for a walk or a run, it can be difficult for residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay during the cold months.

The lone fitness centre in town, the 5 Wing Fitness Sports and Recreation Centre, is a military facility. Therefore, it is to be used primarily by military personal up at the base.

Luckily, over the years, residents of Central Labrador have been allowed to take advantage of the facility freely, so all was swell.

But in recent times there have been changes to how civilians can access the fitness centre. Most notably, there are now only 150 memberships handed out for each three-month block. Obviously, the supply doesn’t come close to meeting the demand.

So sought after are these passes that, On June 16, people lined up outside the fitness centre well before 6 a.m. to make sure they could get one.

Those who don’t have memberships will have to use day passes, which cost $10 each. That adds up to a lot of money if someone wants to use a gym regularly.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of frustration over what’s happening with the fitness centre. But that frustration shouldn’t be leveled at those who operate the gym at 5 Wing Goose Bay. This wasn’t meant to be a civilian facility, so it’s hard to blame them for wanting to limit its usage.

In fact, the limited memberships are helping to shed a light on Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s sad state of recreational facilities. The E. J. Broomfield Arena, The Labrador Training Centre, and the Goose Bay Curling Club, are all old and well past their prime. A recent audit, paid for by the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay revealed that it would be costly to keep repairing and maintaining these old buildings, making little sense not to replace them.

When it comes to what the town needs, in terms of recreation, the list is long. It needs a new curling facility, a new swimming pool, a new fitness centre; an indoor walking path, and the list goes on.

But how have things gotten to this point? Well, when it comes to recreation and entertainment, Happy Valley-Goose Bay became used to feeding off the base. Even the only movie theatre in town is located at 5 Wing. The Goose Bay Curling Club and The Labrador Training Centre were built, originally, as military recreational centres many decades ago, and were passed on to the town.

In an interview with The Labradorian, Mayor Jamie Snook put it best when he said: “Throughout our history we’ve depended upon facilities that have been built for other people’s purposes and we’ve gotten hand-me-downs over the years.”

Something should have been done a long time ago to ensure that the future of Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s recreational facilities were in good shape. Now, it’s all come to a head, and there’s no blueprints for a new building.

The problem can’t go unresolved any longer. We know the potential costs of unhealthy, inactive lifestyles. Every community, province, and country, has a duty to ensure proper recreational opportunities for their citizens.

In early 2013, Happy Valley-Goose Bay held a meeting, where residents and council discussed what they wanted from the Muskrat Falls project. Since the project would put strain on the community’s infrastructure and services, people felt that the provincial government and/or Nalcor should foot the bill for some things in town.

When people spoke, there was one theme that constantly popped up: someone should pay for a modern sports and recreation facility, something with a swimming pool, exercise rooms, and more.

The town council and the residents still desire such a facility. But there’s no agreement on who should pay for it.

The former mayor, Leo Abbass, stated many times that the municipality could not afford to pay the 30 per cent of a 70-30 cost share with the province. Snook has stated that he wants the new recreation centre to be a provincial election issue when people go to the polls.

The province and the town must come up with an agreement soon. There can be no excuses and no delays. It’s clear that the days of relying on the base for our facilities are over. If the elected officials can’t solve the recreation issue soon, the consequences will be felt for years to come.

— Derek Montague is a reporter/photographer with The Labradorian. He can be reached by email at the following: derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: The Labrador Training Centre, Goose Bay Curling Club

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Happy Valley, Labrador Central Labrador

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