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Nanaimo parks committee considers stable 4H club funding

A change of heart by Nanaimo city officials could mean committed funding for the Beban 4H Barnyard.

In a decision reversal last week, Nanaimo’s recreation committee opted to consider ways to secure future funding for the Cedar 4H Club and its Bowen Park barnyard.

It’s a turnaround from an earlier bid to see the agricultural organization slowly weaned off city dollars.

The club was supposed to see its $5,000 annual contribution scaled back by $1,000 each year because it no longer qualifies for grant money and city officials wanted to encourage the organization to become more self-sufficient.

But committee members say they are now reconsidering the move in the wake of public outcry over funding cutbacks and concern about the collapse of the now cash-strapped petting farm.

They have asked city staff to come up with a report on how money could be committed to the 4H club, including potentially dedicating a portion of community development grant money toward the group.

“Basically ... it was a change of heart,” said Ted Greves, chairman of the recreation committee and city councillor.

The Cedar 4H Club has been operating a $15,000 petting farm and a summer employment program for more than two decades after taking over the program from the City of Nanaimo. But it has faced an uncertain future since the announcement that city officials would pull back funding. The club has already suffered losses in provincial funding and business donations.

Linda Barnett, barnyard supervisor for the Cedar 4H Club, was “amazed” at the news the city will now consider guaranteed funding, saying it could allow for long-term planning.  It is the second positive development for the organization since early December when the city temporarily paused grant reductions.

“I respect them on their decision and appreciate their change of heart,” Barnett said. “A big bouquet to the citizens of Nanaimo that cared enough ... that made their voices heard for sure that they felt it was a worthwhile program and supported us.”

The staff report on funding options is expected this year. The decision by the recommendation would need to be approved by the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission and Nanaimo city council.

 

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