In the run-up to the very divisive and often unpleasant fire hall borrowing referendum a friend dropped into my office to ask for a copy of the column I wrote shortly after the successful referendum that led to the massive overhaul of Creston & District Community Complex and addition of the aquatic centre. We don’t keep our archives here, so I dropped into the Creston Museum, where they are stored. I found the column in question—only because someone who remembers dates better than I do had narrowed it down for me—and photographed that page from the bound volume.
I don’t read my own work after I have written it, and I often have trouble remembering what I wrote about last week, so it was a strange feeling when I sat down to read the following piece, from November 23, 2006. I was surprised at the pleasant memories it stirred in me.
So, in this rushed week leading into the production of this final edition of 2017, I invite readers to step into the way-back machine and remember what for many of us was a very joyous occasion:
Clap, clap, clap. That is my print version of a standing ovation. It’s for the Friends of the Community Complex and the Creston Valley Aquatic Society. It’s for local politicians who had the courage to let voters have a say. And, of course, it’s to the residents of the Creston Valley who have broken our recent history of being naysayers by approving expenditures for an upgraded recreation centre and aquatic facility.
Having spent last week in Calgary (yes, we cast our votes earlier) I was surprised at the anxiety I felt on Saturday night, wondering what the results were. But I couldn’t bring myself to call friends on a cell phone, thinking it would be a long, long, long drive home on Sunday if the referendum was defeated. When we got into town- in time to enjoy the Lions’ Grey Cup win- I ran into a friend while picking up milk at Overwaitea and was ecstatic to learn of the results.
I think that our citizens are to be congratulated for the interest they took in the issue, on both sides of the argument. While I remain firm in my belief that many of the no side campaigners simply dislike paying taxes, I think most were generally fair and accurate in expressing their concerns. I hope that they don’t disappear from the scene but instead work with the process to see we get the best value for our tax dollars and end up with a facility that will serve us for the coming decades.
Make no mistake about it- the decision to spend up to $18 million has the potential to divide the community. But people on both sides need to accept that the process is no different than ones in the past that have seen voters turn down an indoor pool, a new library, and the sterile insect release program. Folks who said the referendum should require a double majority actually got their wish when more than half the eligible voters cast ballots and more than half voted yes.
In the weeks leading up to Saturday’s vote, I had concluded that the decision would be a bellwether for the Creston Valley, that we would either move 20 years forward or 20 years back with the outcome. As one of the nearly 61 percent who cast yes votes, I am obviously one who is also in favour of moving forward instead of simply resting on our laurels as a beautiful valley.
A yes vote will have positive ramifications in ways I suspect we can’t even imagine so soon after the fact. It delivers an important message not only to prospective businesses and residents but to ourselves, that we believe in each other and that we are worth investing in. Perhaps, once the facility is built, we can embark on a campaign to become the fittest community in the province, reducing our reliance on the health care system. An indoor aquatic facility and improved recreation centre give us that opportunity and what better way to make it a true community centre than to embark on ambitious goals? We’ve done just that with the referendum so it isn’t much of a stretch to think our ambition didn’t die when we cast our ballots.
In the more than 27 years since we came to Creston, I’ve become so used to people saying no to new public facilities, time changes, politicians who think outside the box and change in general that it seems almost miraculous that we’ve broken the pattern. Maybe it was the many newcomers who so clearly see what we are lacking. Maybe it was the superb, factual campaign conducted by the yes side. Or maybe it was the many senior citizens who believe this was an opportunity that truly does benefit all age groups. Whatever the reasons for the success of Saturday’s vote, I’m especially pleased for families – what a wonderful, welcoming message we have sent to parents and their children. With this change, I am convinced, will come many others. With some effort and diligence from all sides, we can ensure those changes benefit the broadest possible cross-section of our population.