Rec director to step down after 21 years

John Mackey is retiring as RDKB's director of rec programming and facilities.

John Mackey

He started his career offering recreation for soldiers in the Canadian armed forces and will end it in Grand Forks offering recreation programs for the residents of our community.After 21 years as director of recreation programming and facilities for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, John Mackey will be retiring at the end of July.He came to Grand Forks with his wife planning to stay for maybe five years and move on, but they ended up liking it so much they never left.“We just fell in love with the valley and ended up selling any holdings we had on the coast and really put down roots here,” said Mackey. As director of programming and facilities, Mackey is in charge of the development of community programming and recreational leisure, and the overseeing of the RDKB rec facilities at Grand Forks.Mackey has several projects he has overseen over the years that he is proud of. Chief among them is the ongoing arena maintenance at Jack Goddard Memorial Arena (formerly Grand Forks Arena).“We’ve done a lot—we’ve basically got a 20-year maintenance program going,” he said. “As of late, we have totally rebuilt the refrigeration system. They’re not cheap facilities to run by any means but as long as you maintain them, they’ll continue to thrive.”He’s also proud of the aquatic centre.“We’re blessed to have an facility like that in a community this size,” said Mackey. “It’s also expensive to run. I totally enjoy the energy conservation that we’ve done since 2007. The solar heating, heat recovery, it pays its dividends. We’ve cut our natural gas consumption by over 40 per cent.”Some of the upcoming projects that Mackey has been a big part of include the community garden, as well as the outdoor fitness centre, which will be set up this summer on the south side of the aquatic centre.One of the current trends that troubles Mackey is the reduction in number of youth in the community which leads to lower numbers of youth signing up for team sports such as hockey, swimming and figure skating.“When I came here in 1993, minor hockey had over 200 kids,” he said. “Last year, I don’t know if they made it to 90 kids. Those are some of the challenges (we’ve had to face).”By comparison, numbers have steadily risen in the enrolment of participants in adult sports.Mackey has seen the recent shift in recreation from youth programming to more adult and family oriented activities.“Our growth area right now are the Boomers,” he said. “They’re in their peak. So our adult program is going to keep growing, I think.”The Christina Lake Triathlon is another event that GFREC manages that Mackey is proud of.“It’s going into its tenth year,” he said. “There’s not a lot of events that last that long but people keep coming back. It’s just been great. We added the kids event (mini-triathlon) a few years back.”Another trend Mackey sees is the shift towards non-directed activities. He gives a lot of that credit to the city for their work on the trails system.“The trails are busy,” he said. “There are a lot of active people out there. We want to know how we can get more of the runners. There are lots of people who prefer to walk on their own or run on their own.”Before coming to Grand Forks, Mackey was in West Vancouver teaching at a private school. Before that, he was at graduate school at the University of Victoria.He began his initial training in recreation programming in the Canadian Armed Forces where he spent 16 years in Ontario and Saskatchewan with the military.“Our goal was the training of the troops,” he said. “We also did community recreation on the bases where I served.”Mackey and his wife, whom he met at UVic, love the slower pace and outdoor focus of living in the Boundary.“I love the four seasons,” he said, “after spending years at the coast where there are two seasons: rainy and rainier. We love being to step out our door and go for a bike ride, go skiing, it’s all right there. You don’t have to go through city traffic to go anywhere.”Mackey said the RDKB has yet to name his successor. He expects the position to be filled at some point this summer. He anticipates there may be some changes to the position but that there will definitely continue to be a manager on site at the Grand Forks recreation centre.

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