To The Editor,
With the changes in demographics, particularly in rural Ontario, community centres are under-used throughout Prescott-Russell as are many other activities.
The changing demographics, seeing young people leaving rural areas for advanced education, employment, and career possibilities is a reality that we face and must take into consideration in all decision-making, be it related to municipal services, schools, and to a certain extent, economic development. In short, demographics is the study of human populations as generations move up the scale. As humans age, their needs change and must be addressed, as we see within the evolution of health care, as an example, where home care and related services have grown to meet the requirements of that demographic group.
Demographics are affected by humans who leave us and replaced by newborns which create needs that may and do differ from the needs of past decades. Evolution is occurring every day around us, as age groups move up the scale, creating different needs than those of decades past.
This, in rural areas, has a major impact on the future requirements and needs in the next and future decades. The youths, as an example, are moving away from traditional sports and activities into new areas that are growing. Look at soccer, as an example. Decades ago, it was lacking in participants, but now it is a major sports activity that our youths are enjoying.
Late teens and early 20’s seek advanced education and move to areas where these possibilities exist. Once studies are completed, they find employment in the larger populated areas. This is a change in demographics that has a heavy impact in both social and economics in rural areas. These new realities must be seriously taken into consideration in planning for the future.
Decades ago there were, in rural areas, community centers operated by associations such as the Lions Club and Knights of Columbus etc who have ceased operating hall rentals and related services as they became a financial burden to operate. Not used enough to cover the costs incurred while trying to hang on, yet bills kept coming in while incomes dropped. Private operators of reception halls are also suffering to some extent and have created other activities to attract people.
Building another community center in Champlain or even in Prescott-Russell will not change the impact of demographics. Demographics are not favorable at this point in time to build and or invest in new community centers nor private reception halls. The impact of demand for activities in the present and future demographics will continue to drop as the replacement in the demographics move away and interests change and truly differ from those of the previous few decades.
To adjust the demographic changes to keep the replacement population stable and growing, energies should be focused and creating well enumerated employment and career possibilities before considering investing in social activities such as Community Centers and other projects. Those still operating, be it community or private, are struggling for survival and making forced changes or reducing their presence in order to survive.
Unfortunately, community centres are nice things to have but must financially survive and not be burdens on township budgets. Township budgets are having issues at the present time with escalating costs and to some extent, a stagnant taxable base. The expenses are growing and this: to simply maintain infrastructures and present services.
When economics take a favorable upward turn with programs to encourage employment and career possibilities to keep (not hope) and attract a return to a rural areas within the upcoming generations in our area, a community center may be looked at that future point in time.
Presently with reality as it exists, it is not the time.