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Balancing the boom

RMOW planning survey on kids' recreation as it adjusts to growing demand for programming



It doesn't take a demographer to see that there's been a baby boom of sorts in Whistler, just a trip to any local park or playground. The combination of more employee housing, more people sticking around for longer and an aging population has resulted in a mini boom of sorts for the Whistler area. The most recent Census numbers (see opposite page) also point to an increase in married and common law couples, as well as an increase in home ownership.

While it's a measure of success in some ways — Whistler's plan to house at least 75 per cent of staff within the resort has been successful with over 80 per cent of employees living here — the number of children is putting a strain on programming and services offered to families.

The Whistler Children's Centre's waitlist has grown from roughly 100 kids to 125 kids in the last few years. Now, to ensure a spot for their children, Whistler Children's Centre director Kari Gaudet is recommending parents sign up the moment they find out they're pregnant.

"I really hope that people aren't registering before a pregnancy, which has been the situation in the Lower Mainland," said Gaudet. "Here, some are coming in as soon as they're pregnant because their friends and family told them to do that, and some aren't coming in until the baby is born, and unfortunately those people are at a disadvantage.

"The way we describe it is that if you put yourself on the waitlist when you're expecting and then take one year of maternity leave, generally we'll have some form of space available when you return to work — so about a year-and-a-half waitlist."

Gaudet estimates that there are about 115 kids enrolled in Whistler Children's Centre programs, and they can service a maximum of 74 kids per day with 24 spaces for kids under the age of three and 50 spaces for older kids.

Numbers do fluctuate though with programs like Whistler Kids ski school said Gaudet. September is one of the busiest times of the year for the centre as families return from holidays.

As well as registering early, Gaudet also recommends parents take what they can get. If a parent passes on a spot because of the day or because it interferes with a holiday, there's a good chance that space will be taken by somebody else.

"We recommend in the summer when a spot comes up that people take it," she said. "I also recommend that you take what we offer. The hardest thing is getting off the waitlist and into the program, but once kids are in it's more flexible because we deal with your needs and wants first, and we can make parents aware of other days as they become available."

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