Saint John abruptly reverses implementation of recreation cards

The City of Saint John has abruptly reversed the implementation of its recreation card program which was rolled out earlier this week.

The decision comes amid mounting criticism and a promise for financial support from the Saint John Hotel Association.

The plan for the controversial program was set in motion back in June.

Council voted to implement it after nine surrounding municipalities refused to chip in and cover the cost of arenas located in Saint John.

“From day one we’ve been looking to put a sharing model into place in the Greater Saint John region,” said Don Darling.

A city report at the time revealed it costs the City of Saint John $380,00 a year to maintain the rinks and more than a thousand non-residents end up using them regularly.

Anyone wanting to use municipal arenas would be required to have a recreation card. Saint John residents would get the cards for free but they would cost non-residents $200.

“So right now our data would show that about 30 per cent of the users of our arena facilities are from outside our city, so in other words, they’re non-tax paying users. So this has really been a conversation from day one about fairness,” said Darling.

The City of Saint John announced plans earlier this week that they would begin spot checks on the cards next month — those who didn’t have one would face fines.

The response was less than supportive.

“I think any time we add an additional barrier to hockey and make it less accessible to kids that’s a bad thing,” said Chris Green, the Fundy regional chair for Hockey New Brunswick.

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