‘Cities should work together’

Former parks manager prefers shared agreement for recreation

The fracturing relationship between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is a concern to school board chair Mike Murray, who was surprised by the recent decision to dissolve the 21-year-old parks and recreation partnership between the two cities.

Murray oversaw the parks department for most of the lifespan of the joint services agreement, which he helped author. He is the retired general manager of community development, parks and recreation for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. He worked for Maple Ridge from 1977 until 2010.

He has been chair of the school board since 2011.

Simply put, he called the parks agreement “a way of sharing in a pretty major function in an effective way.”

He said school trustees knew a change could be coming. The school board was asked whether it would face additional costs without the joint services agreement.

Murray said the board found that question difficult to quantify, but responded that it is easier, as a major partner in recreation facilities – including school fields and gymnasiums – to deal with one body.

In October, Maple Ridge council announced that it would be pulling out of the recreation joint services agreement in a year – by the end of October 2016.

Even though he was the school district’s representative on the parks and leisure services commission, Murray and other commissioners did not get a chance to offer their opinion before Maple Ridge’s decision.

“I was surprised, but I certainly respect council’s authority,” Murray said.

It creates some work for the school district, and other groups, he added.

“We’ll be in a position of having to negotiate agreements with both municipalities.”

He said there are many community organizations, from minor hockey and soccer associations to arts and seniors groups, which provide services for citizens of both cities. They will all have to deal with two separate municipalities in the future.

He said the full impact of the agreement ending are not obvious.

It was based on the principle that people in the partner communities make use of services and infrastructure in both cities – as Maple Ridge residents use the arena and sports fields in Pitt Meadows

He said the agreement provided benefits in equal access, and the best use of infrastructure.

For the partner cities and the board, the commission provides “ a common vehicle to make decisions together,” he added.

“Whatever happens, I would hope that the benefits of the agreement could be maintained for citizens, with whatever replaces it.”

Asked whether he has been advocating for Maple Ridge to reconsider withdrawing from the agreement, Murray answered: “At this point, I would prefer a closer working relationship between the two municipalities, instead of moving apart.”

He did not want to offer more details about how he would propose to improve that relationship at this time.

Pitt Meadows has taken steps toward future independence, and last week councillors decided to pay up to $70,000 for consulting services to help the city build a new parks and recreation department. It is also looking for ways to partner with Port Coquitlam to provide new services.

 

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