By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – Representatives from RC Strategies presented Sturgeon County Council with the findings of a needs assessment study they conducted on the County’s behalf earlier this year. The approximately $50,000 study took stock of existing recreational facilities and programs in Sturgeon County and neighbouring communities, assessing the strengths and weaknesses based on what County residents are using and would use if it were available to them.
A total of 5,581 household surveys were sent to Sturgeon County residents in the spring, with 908 (16.3 per cent) being returned for evaluation. An additional 81 surveys were sent to stakeholder groups with 29 being returned to the consulting group for inclusion in their results.
Topping the list of County resident’s desires for indoor facilities were swimming pools, fitness and wellness facilities and walking and running tracks. At the top of their outdoor needs were campgrounds, non-motorized trail systems, picnic areas, ATV and dirt bike trails and parks, and skateboard parks.
The consultants compared Sturgeon County with Parkland County, Red Deer County and the Counties of Grande Prairie and Wetaskiwin, finding that Sturgeon was unique in that it was the only County with an amphitheatre and grass / sand volleyball courts. Additionally, Sturgeon County had a greater number of parks and open spaces, non-mechanized trails, outdoor sports parks and outdoor rectangular fields than the other counties studied. However, it had less than comparable municipalities in terms of playgrounds and performing arts spaces.
While the survey shows County residents are making use of the local hockey arenas, it also shows large numbers using recreational facilities outside the County. Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they use Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert, and an additional 30 per cent use the Dow Centennial Centre in Fort Saskatchewan. Another 20 per cent use the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre in Spruce Grove. Only 18 per cent of County residents indicated they use the Morinville Public Library.
In assessing the availability of services offered in Sturgeon County, 52 per cent of the survey respondents indicated the availability of recreational and cultural facilities in Sturgeon County was limited. Topping the list of desired facilities were swimming pools (38 per cent), indoor fitness and wellness facilities (37 per cent) and ATV / dirt bike tracks and trails (26 per cent).
However, smaller percentages were interested in incurring any costs associated with paying for additional facilities. Forty-two per cent of respondents indicated they would not be prepared to pay any tax increase to ensure community needs are better met. Forty per cent were prepared to pay an additional $100 in taxes, while 11 per cent would be comfortable with a $100 to $150 tax increase. Those willing to pay an additional $150 to $200 accounted for just five per cent of those surveyed and those willing to pay more than $200 were but two per cent of the people surveyed.
The needs assessment study also showed 41.3 per cent of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funds went towards children and youth programming. Another 30 per cent was directed towards families. Adults and seniors received 3.7 per cent and 8.6 per cent of funding, respectively.