Mission won't bar outsiders from swim lessons

Suggestion that locals be given priority could spark 'tit-for-tat,' mayor warns

A Mission councillor wants residents to get priority to register for swim classes. But the city will keep swim classes open for all, no matter where they live.

Outsiders, though, could eventually end up paying more.

Mission’s debate comes just a year after Langley considered out-of-town users of its own waterpark and amid difficulties in accessing swim facilities and lessons in Chilliwack

Last week, Coun. Jag Gill suggested the city consider policies that would give locals the edge when it came to signing up for high-demand activities like swim lessons.

Gill said that Mission residents shouldn’t have to wait longer to access classes because parents from other municipalities are signing up for swim lessons in the community.

Mission parks director Louis Dauphin said residents still comprise the vast majority of users, with only about 10% of participants in the last swim-lesson session hailing from out of town. He also said some specialty programs depend on out-of-town users to make the numbers work.

Gill said those sessions don’t need such restrictions, but that locals should be prioritized when it comes to high-demand activities.

The call for resident priorities is an echo of a recent debate in Langley, where a Township councillor called for Aldergrove residents to be given priority signing up for the incredibly popular (and cheap) Otter Co-op Outdoor Experience waterpark. The waterpark is already one of the only recreational facilities to provide locals with priority booking opportunities before non-residents.

Last year, Coun. Kim Richter wanted the Township to go even further to give Aldergrove residents more access. Richter’s proposal was rejected by colleagues who noted that the facility was funded by all Township taxpayers—though a colleague did back the idea that the Township should give priority to residents registering for swim lessons.

Last week in Mission, council also declined to wall off swimming lessons—though they did leave the door open to some Mission-based favouritism.

Mayor Paul Horn cautioned that a move could create backlash from other communities; he noted that Mission residents benefit when they can use larger facilities in neighbouring communities, and that the city also benefits in not having to build extremely costly facilities that would be impossible given its smaller size

“I worry that we’d get into a tit-for-tat… because we’re the small fish and we’ll be building things we can’t afford [to provide programs to residents].”

He also noted that many users come from outlying electoral areas that depend on Mission services. A staff member had also noted that many First Nation residents don’t technically live in Mission.

“This is one of those things where we could regret beginning down this path,” Horn said

But Horn said the city could look at setting recreation fees instead—suggesting the potential of discounts for local taxpayers. After hearing Horn’s words, Gill withdrew his motion, though he echoed the idea that fees could be adjusted to provide extra help for locals.

Mission’s swim lessons will remain open to all for now. But whether outsiders will eventually have to pay a bit more is an open question.

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