Fraser Recreation Foundation members speak out
September 25, 2008
While one local citizens group is threatening lawsuits and a recall election over its new recreation center, there is another group of Fraser Valley citizens doing its best to see the new recreation facility gets the support it needs.
The members of the Fraser Valley Recreation Foundation are standing up to defend the new recreation center, the recreation district’s board of directors who approved it and the developer who has donated the land for it.
The foundation, which is a nonprofit corporation begun in 2003, has the stated mission of assisting the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District with its programs, events and projects.
Members of the foundation say they object to all the controversy that has been stirred up in recent weeks by the Concerned Citizens group who are threatening lawsuits and calling for a recall election of district board members over the recreation center.
“The recreation center was approved by a popular vote of about a hundred,” said Karen Waeschle, the foundation’s president. “We want it built because it will help this district prosper. It’s amazing how long this district has gone without any kind of a facility of its own other than the Fraser Valley Outdoor Sports Complex.”
Waeschle argued that a new recreation center will be a great asset to the community.
“We’re the only major resort community in this state without a recreation center,” she said. “It will be another amenity we can offer. And think of the kids of this community. Some kids have asked me since this controversy began, ‘So, they don’t want us to have a pool after all?”
Meara Michel, the foundation’s secretary, said that having an operating rec. center will boost the community.
“We’re just trying to expand the recreational opportunities in this community for all ages,” she said. “But now that the district is facing a lawsuit, people can now anticipate that there will be less exercise equipment because some of the district funds will have to be spend on it.”
Foundation member Toni Telander said the community needs to really show its support for the new rec center.
“I’m on the foundation to enhance the lives of my children and the rest of this community,” she said. “This rec center will provide those opportunities and could become a real focus for this community once its built.”
While the foundation members do not foresee the threatened lawsuits as stopping the rec center’s construction, they see the Concerned Citizens’ effort to recall three of the district’s directors as a real problem.
“These board members have all this knowledge of the day-to-day operation of the district,” Waeschle said. “If they quit or are recalled, the district will lose that continuity. And the district’s staff is also getting beaten up by this issue.”
Michel agreed. “Who wants to be put into a position where they can be harassed like this,” she said.
A major issue of the controversy over the rec. center is the contract between the district and Grand Park developer Clark Lipscomb. Grand Park is donating the land where the center will be built.
“There are naysayers who oppose the rec. center because they don’t like Clark,” Waeschle said. “But this was a free donation of $4.3 million worth of property.”
Michel said she met with the Coors Foundation that funds recreation projects all over the state and told them about Grand Park’s donation.
“They were shocked at how inexpensively we were getting compared to other projects. That says a lot,” she said.
Waeschle said she served on 12-member design committee for the rec. center with Lipscomb and he is being unfairly protrayed by opponents of the project.
“Clark was just one vote on the committee,” she said. “He made great suggestions and was open to our suggestions. He helped the project with savings for trees, lighting, paving and design. I thought he was very beneficial to the design process. It was never his way or the highway.”
Michel agreed. “Clark has been an asset, not a hindrance to the project,” she said. “It’s time to put personal feelings aside.”
One of the most controversial issues surrounding the rec. center is its name. The contract states it will be called the “Grand Park Community Recreation Center or a name that is mutually agreeable to both parties.”
“If Lipscomb felt the community supported and embraced this project, he might be willing to reconsider the name,” Michel said.
“Ultimately, whatever it’s named, everyone here will just be calling it ‘The Rec. Center,'” she said. “And I’d also like to point out that those opposing it say it’s not really wanted. Well, I personally have been working to get a rec. center here since 1993. We’ve also received a total of $250,000 in local donations to pay for equipment and other things for the rec. center.”
The foundation members say that to move the project forward, the “rumors and misinformation” about the rec. center have to stop.
“The perpetuation of this misinformation has been detrimental financially and emotionally to this project,” Michel said.
“Please contact the Fraser Valley Recreation Foundation or the rec. board before you believe any of the rumors that are out there,” Waeschle said.