The District of 100 Mile House will lose another two doctors this month, partly because of a lack of recreational facilities across the region.
Chiropractor Larissa Juren and her medical doctor husband Andrew, who run the 100 Mile Health Clinic, have decided to move to Nanaimo after Juren was suddenly diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that makes mobility difficult, especially in winter. A pool might have helped to keep her active, she said, but they can’t afford to wait.
“We love it here but we can’t do the winters,” she said. “It was a really difficult decision but it was taken out of our hands. We thought this was our forever home.”
The lack of recreational opportunities in the South Cariboo has been hotly debated around the Cariboo Regional District for years. In 1993, a referendum for a pool failed and in 2012, a proposal for an aquatic centre was determined by the South Cariboo Joint committee to not have enough support following a feasibility study and a public survey.
The Cariboo Regional District is now set to start a public education campaign around a proposal to adjust the South Cariboo’s recreation taxation boundaries to include all of electoral areas G (Canim Lake-Forest Grove), H (Lone Butte-Interlakes) and L (108 Mile Ranch-Lac La Hache) and the District of 100 Mile House.
The proposed new South Cariboo Recreation and Culture Service, tentatively slated to go to referendum in June 2022, would have a proposed annual taxation limit of $3.75 million, which works out to a residential taxation rate of about $100 per $100,000 of assessed value. This would allow the CRD to establish a new recreational service that supports existing facilities, including the South Cariboo Rec Centre, Martin Exeter Hall, and Main Beach, West Beach and Stewart Beach at 108 Mile Ranch, plus the ability to pay for new major projects, such as an aquatic centre.
At the moment, the recreation boundaries end at 108 Mile and Lone Butte, which means residents outside those areas have to buy a $200 recreation pass to use CRD services.
“Having that arbitrary line that ends at 108 Mile and doesn’t include Lac La Hache and ends at Lone Butte and doesn’t include Bridge Lake doesn’t make sense,” said Darron Campbell, the CRD’s manager of community services. “There’s a much bigger area of the South Cariboo that benefits from these facilities.”
The referendum will be open to voters in the District of 100 Mile as well as all of the electoral areas of G, H and L. It was originally scheduled for this year but was pushed back following the mill closures and then the COVID-19 pandemic.
Campbell said it’s a huge undertaking to ensure the public has all the crucial information about the proposed new service. It’s not just about providing more recreational services but building the infrastructure needed to attract new people, families and talent to the region, he said.
“These are the types of public assets we need in the community to create vibrancy and attract individuals to move here and bring their skills,” Campbell said. “You want to be a desirable place to live. When you look at those places that are desirable they have things like public recreation. That’s always at the top of the list when people are looking to relocate.”
Juren, who lives in 108 Mile and was involved in the South Cariboo Aquatic Society to lobby for a pool, agrees. As a recruiter, she maintains many professionals want to move here but are often turned off by the lack of recreation services. While she used to be active in Nordic skiing and other winter sports, her mobility issues has put an end to outdoor recreation.
A pool or a walking track would provide recreation for people like her and seniors with mobility issues, as well as the ability to offer rehab or aqua-therapy for patients. The South Cariboo has one of the highest seniors’ populations in B.C., second only to Qualicum Beach.
It would also give 100 Mile year-round recreation for youth and other residents, she said. Although Juren, like many parents, drives her children to Williams Lake for swimming lessons, it is expensive and time-consuming. Plus, they need to practice.
“The lack of a pool is a significant deterrent for over half of physicians,” she said. “It was frustrating to have people super qualified who are looking to a rural community to put down roots and who would be such an asset to the community. The winters are long and there’s a large number of people who can’t do stuff.”
Tera Tang, who recently moved to Lone Butte, said a pool would benefit her 13-year-old twin daughters who are competitive swimmers. It would also put 100 Mile House on the map for competitive swim meets and other events that draw both people and economic investments to the area.
“Everyone out here still uses 100 Mile (facilities),” she said. “Everywhere the school bus goes and the kids come from, we should be contributing to this.”
Resident Brenda Beebe has been pushing for a pool for the past 30 years, as she would love to do aquafit or swim in a pool year-round. She would be hit twice, she noted, as her house in Gateway and her cabin in the “middle of nowhere” outside the current boundaries, but it would be worth it to have a recreation centre with a pool, gym and other facilities.
“I’d be willing to pay in order to get the pool because I think it’s important for our community,” Beebe said. “It’s important to get young people up here because they’re not going to come to a hick town.”
100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall, who sits on the South Cariboo Joint Committee, said the historical boundaries have made it difficult to expand recreation because of the small tax base. Although some people complain they won’t use the facilities, he notes about 70 percent of the district’s residents are seniors who already are paying for the existing services.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” he said. “We need it for our community. But it’s something the voters are going to have to make a decision on.”
Juren acknowledges it’s a challenging time to be going to taxpayers now in the midst of COVID-19, but maintains she has hope that the recreational situation will improve – even though she won’t be here to see it. She said they hope to sell their clinic to someone “with the same vision” and has recruited a massage therapist for January and one for June.
“If the community unites and really pushes for something that will eventually affect change.”