Poll

Recreation master plan creates confusion

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
December 3rd, 2015

Some confusion is plaguing residents after the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission unveiled a draft master plan at two open houses on Monday.

The plan (which can be viewed in its entirety online by clicking here ) is a weighty document of 212 pages, and includes the majority of the options on the Castlegar wish-list for Complex expansion, which would come at a combined price tag of $32,796,400.

A handful of residents (who asked to remain unnamed) noted the similarity between that price tag and the $25 million cost of an expansion proposed in 2010, which was soundly defeated via referendum (click here to read coverage).

The question that arose was, is this master plan a way to do an end run around the democratic process, implementing the same improvements at an even higher price tag as in 2010, but without benefit of public approval?

Absolutely not, according to recreation manager Jim Crockett.

To start with, the report has neither force nor effect beyond that of informing the Recreation Commission, and then the Regional District, of the options on offer, their cost, and their relative ranking by residents in terms of priority, as indicated in the previous year’s public consultation processes.

“It’s providing (information about) all the things that came up as priorities with residents,” Crockett said. “Not to implement right away – in fact, one of the questions on the feedback form is whether people would rank a particular option as a short-term priority, a long-term priority, or not a priority at all.

“All of that will be factored into the final recommendations – many of the items on the list may not ever see the light of day.”

Crockett also said that if and when there is an enhancement project the commission wants to tackle, there will be another public process for it to achieve approval – the report is decidedly not a blank cheque, and includes neither decisions nor proposed legislation.

The goal here is, rather, to help shape and guide an over-arching, years-long vision that includes extensive community consultation and public feedback. Moreover, it includes, not just the Complex, but also all indoor and outdoor facilities and properties under the Recreation Commission purview, parks and trails, as well as cultural infrastructure and undertakings such as amphitheatres for public performances.

To that end, Edmonton-based consulting company RC Strategies engaged in several forms of public consultation, over the course of roughly a year, including a survey issued to all Castlegar and Areas I and J residents, which boasted 792 responses – almost double what was expected. They also held consultations and offered questionnaires to local groups and organizations, and roughly 120 people attended Monday’s open houses. They are also inviting feedback on the master plan online at http://fluidsurveys.com/s/RDCKcommentform/ until Dec. 14, 2015.

The vast majority of survey respondents identified recreation, culture and exercise as critical community priorities, and said the top barriers to their own participation are: 1. Too busy/not enough time; 2. Admission fees; and 3. Inconvenient hours.

Sixty-three per cent said there is a need for new/upgraded recreation facilities.

In terms of indoor facilities, the top five priorities (in order) were: 1. Expansion of pool facilities/attractions; 2. Exercise/weight room improvements; 3. A walking/running track; 4. Performing arts/show spaces, and; 5. Ice arena facilities.

In terms of outdoor amenities, priorities were ranked as follows: 1. Walking trail system; 2. Campgrounds; 3. Access to the river; 4. Dog off-leash areas, and; 5. Picnic areas.

Also identified was a need for increased youth programming.

Interestingly, 40 per cent of respondents said they would support an increase in taxes to ensure recreation needs are better met, compared to 34 per cent who said no.

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