By COLLIN GALLANT on February 1, 2022.
City council members are questioning why administrators are still proposing building larger regional fitness facilities to replace existing rec centres when voters seemingly rejected the idea last fall.
The debate arose during a special meeting of the public services committee meeting on Monday during which, over several hours, councillors and Mayor Linnsie Clark went through the proposed “Parks and Recreation Masterplan” with department officials.
They heard officials are now working on the separate “facilities for the future” plan to deal with capital needs. That document will include an eventual multiplex and south-end regional pool, because that is a key point in the city’s overarching “Municipal Development Plan.”
“I like the guiding principles (in the parks plan) very much,” said Clark, “But I want to make sure there is alignment and if there’s a conflict with the MDP, I want to know how we resolve that conflict.”
Division managing director Brian Mastel said that in typical fashion, the MDP is considered near the top of hierarchy of city documents in decision making, but council’s direction is always required.
“It’s worth spending some time on,” he said. “It’s a key strategic direction from the MDP, and any plans we bring forward will borrow from both.”
The parks plan was presented in early January and will go to council for approval next week.
It provides a number of guiding principles for administrators to work with during operational decisions, program and facility work.
That also borrows from a new “Municipal Development Plan” approved by the former council last year, which sets down requirements for city planners and departmental officials to map out the affect on communities.
It diverged from previous plans allowing public- and private-sector work to consider larger areas in terms of local service delivery.
If things like school sites, transportation networks or rec facilities are provided in the general region, then more specific local requirements can be relaxed.
That covers items such as housing type and density, utility and transportation infrastructure, like roads and busing, but it also gives weight to creating larger parks in central locations rather than smaller ones throughout an area.
The “Facilities for the Future” plan will deal specifically with how the city will plan maintenance or replacement of aging facilities, such as the Moose Rec Centre arena and the Crestwood pool. Both were set to stay closed as a way to avoid capital spending, before the newly elected council reversed the decision in December.
During the election, incumbent mayoral candidate Ted Clugston made multiplex and southside pool development a key campaign plank, while Clark said existing centres needed greater consideration and any new building plans should be re-examined.
Alison Van Dyke also made an issue out of maintaining community facilities, and the idea of providing rec opportunities equally could be at odds with facility location.
“Mayor Clark and I are on the same page,” she said Monday. “The most important principle for me is affordability and accessibility, and I’m sure this will come up again.”
Parks managing director James Will said the city must consider cost and capacity, stating recreation facilities are typically not money-makers, but the size of the drawing area can help avoid major losses.
“We see a benefit to both, and there will be some community facilities in the (facilities) plan,” said Will, who said Hill Pool is a good example of a central facility that is well attended and would benefit from new amenities.
Committee members heard that substantial portions of the 2011 plan was carried forward with new focus on areas of consultation, a “stronger environmental ethic,” sporting trends, partnerships and examining benchmarks against other communities.
In general, the population wants greater engagement, more major events hosted and more drop-in recreation opportunities.
Immediate plans are to better promote existing offerings and seek out partnerships, determine what level of community engagement is required when changes are proposed.
Chair, Coun. Ramona Robins also said it does not address every specific issue, but it recognizes some issues exist and gives administrators a starting point to address them.
“If it’s mentioned in the masterplan, then stay tuned,” she said
She says the document sets a high-level view, but admitted citizens concerned with operational issues, like the availability of swimming lesson times, may not find their answer in the 120-page report.