New policy aims to increase access to recreation
SHELBURNE - In December, the Municipality of the District of Shelburne passed a new policy on supporting recreation in the area.
The “Affordable Access to Recreation Policy” prioritizes the reduction of financial challenges for community members seeking access to recreational resources.
While some action points in the policy are still in early planning stages, a municipal commitment has been made to increase the number of free or reduced cost recreation opportunities for families, adults and seniors.
“We recognize the need for assistance in buying equipment and paying registration fees,” said director of recreation and parks Marilyn Johnson in a Jan. 7 interview. “There aren’t a lot of policies out there like this, so we took the lead to make recreation as affordable as possible.”
Shelburne County recreation already makes use of funds from partners N.S. Kidsport and Canadian Tire Jumpstart through the locally managed Kids Fair Play FUNd to assist financially disadvantaged children between the ages of four and 18 purchase sporting equipment or pay activity registration fees. Citing the success of this program over the past 16 years, the discussion of establishing a similar fund for financially disadvantaged adults has begun in the county.
“Recreation, sport and cultural activities are important to adults and seniors, as well as children and youth,” Johnson said. “We recognize that the desire is there to participate, but that there are financial challenges. It could be years down the road, or we could find that it’s too complicated. But the discussion has to start.”
The recreation department is already implementing this new policy.
“A lot of it are things we already do, but were never on paper,” Johnson said. “Now they are.”
The policy outlines a commitment to finding new low-cost or free recreational activities, and promoting those that already exist through targeted outreach programs. Where applicable, community partners will be sought to help expand opportunities. The policy also encourages volunteering, as registration fees will be waived if a family member is volunteering to organize or deliver a program.
“We’ve been operating Kids Fair Play FUNd for 16 years, and been very successful. We made improvements, worked out the bugs,” says Johnson. “We’re discussing what it will take to expand on that.”