Despite controversy and confusion surrounding the park board's new OneCard, it has proven popular, at least in its first weeks.
According to Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Niki Sharma, in the two weeks since the OneCard was released July 8, 18,000 cards have been issued to Vancouver residents. Sharma said she knew there was a need for the card, but its early popularity came as a surprise.
"We were very excited that so many people picked up a card," she said.
According to the City of Vancouver website, the OneCard is meant to work like a library card and allows Vancouver residents to access park board pools, rinks and fitness centres no matter where they live in the city or their income level.
The customizable card is currently available for free at 23 park board-operated facilities across the city, but residents must still pay for community centre services. The card also includes a built-in 50 per cent subsidy for those on a low-income who qualify. The board's plan is to have the OneCard available at all community centres in the city by September.
Vancouver resident Juan Garcia said he got his OneCard at Killarney Community Centre and thinks it is a "great idea." He says he and his wife use the Killarney pool often.
So far he hasn't gone to any other community centres, but plans to.
"I don't have to have a membership, but I can go," said Garcia.
But Killarney Community Centre Association president Ainslie Kwan says Vancouver residents like Garcia have been misled by the way the board has promoted the OneCard.
The membership situation is "absolutely not clear," said Kwan.
Kwan said membership is needed to access some programming at community centres in Vancouver. For example, the OneCard will allow access to the Killarney pool, but to use the fitness centre requires membership in the Killarney community centre association because the fitness centre is funded entirely by the association.
As previously reported in the Courier, Kwan says a main concern of community centre associations toward the OneCard is a loss of membership lists. The provincial Society's Act requires that organizations have a membership list to qualify as non-profits. For individuals, taking out membership at a local centre means having a say over how that centre operates, said Kwan.
Not all park board commissioners are onside with the OneCard. On Monday night, NPA park board commissioner Melissa De Genova brought forward a motion, which was shot down by the Vision dominated board, asking staff to create a strategy to explain to the public that even though all the centres are listed on the OneCard, it cannot actually be used at all facilities.
"There is a lot of confusion over where it can be used. This is typical of Vision to unroll something without public consultation," said De Genova.
Vancouver resident Nora Larockque doesn't know anything about the controversy surrounding the OneCard, but she likes the idea behind it.
"It is a good idea to go to different places where they have different courses and programs ... and to meet new people," she said.
Negotiations between community centre associations and the park board on a new joint management agreement are ongoing, but six associations continue to refuse participation in the talks.