Creating a Healthy and Safe Community Centre
By Qiuning Wang
Parks and recreation resources hold a special place in the hearts of many Canadians. Many parents, children, teenagers, seniors see the value in their local community centres and its programs, gyms, facilities and green spaces. Some people find these venues as a place where they can develop specific skills, others may want to enjoy various leisure activities with friends. Recreation and parks cultivate creative pursuits, active lifestyles and community connections.
Our two community centres normally serve over 3000 visitors every season. But in March, both facilities had to close abruptly and staff share the concerns of residents about the impact that these closures have on our community. Where will our seniors go to socialize, read their newspapers or play bridge? Where will our neighbours go to work out? What will parents do when their kids need to stay at home?
We’re working hard to solve all of these questions, but if there’s one thing that pandemic has given us as a community, it is the shared experience of having to navigate uncharted waters together.
We are so inspired to see the various creative ways that our community has come together: a musical jam session put on by neighbours brings evening cheer; a community fundraiser to get masks for seniors and essential workers; seniors signing up for a virtual computer cafe learning about technology. It is truly encouraging to feel the strength and resilience of our community.
We continue to plan, research, and look for better alternative programs and approaches. Though our options are limited, our guiding principles remain the same and our goal is still to create a safe, welcoming, and respectful space for everyone.
It has been no simple task to turn the safety guidelines we received from the government and the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) into a series of operative measures. It continues to be a complex and evolving process that engages all of our staff’s skills and strengths – most of them going above and beyond their job descriptions to keep moving us forward.
When you come to Wesbrook Community Centre, you will notice the changes. The signs will show the way. The lounge door has become our new entrance, hygienic measures are in place, lines for social distancing are marked on the floor, chairs exceeding the occupancy limits are tucked away, plastic barriers section off open spaces, and many more. We’ve put a lot of thought in the changes we’ve implemented, but we ask that when you come to the centre, you can do your part in keeping our space safe.
Allow us to put forward the following guiding principles:
We cannot wait to welcome you back into our community centres, but for now, we are still partially closed and we will have to endure a few more months of this “new normal.” We are running a limited number of modified in-person and online classes and they are available for you to browse at myuna.ca/recreation. Should you choose to join one, please rest assured that we have done our best to keep you safe while in our centre, however, we must all work together to create a healthy and safe space through creativity, compassion, patience and discipline.