By Stephen Dafoe
Bon Accord – The joint efforts of six municipalities were thrown up on easels Tuesday night for residents to take a look at and give their thoughts on. The Sturgeon Regional Partnership of Bon Accord, Gibbons, Legal, Morinville, Sturgeon County and Redwater laid out their initial work on a Regional Recreation Master Plan at an open house held at Bon Accord School Tuesday night.
The goal of the multi-month project, which began in August, is to build a strategic plan for the region to help guide long-term decisions on recreational services delivery over the next quarter century. The plan looks at existing facilities and programming throughout the region, identifying gaps and duplications in both services provided and funding for those services.
Tuesday night’s open house was an information gathering evening, one in which participants could put their thoughts on what is needed and not needed, then plot those thoughts on the boards. Consultants met with key stakeholders the previous day.
Justin Ellis, a project manager with Stantec, the firm hired to work on the project, said the project is nearing the completion of the second phase. “We’re going to take all of this information over the next couple months and draft a preliminary master plan,” he said, adding he anticipates a second public open house in January. “We’re hoping to have the final plan prepared for the end of February.”
Ivy Panganiban, a municipal intern with Sturgeon County, said the project is being funded through a regional collaboration grant the six municipalities applied for and received.
But sharing the costs on the study is not the only cost sharing that goes on. Each year Sturgeon County cuts a cheque to the municipalities to share the costs of operating parks, rinks and soccer pitches. The Town of Morinville has recently agreed to sign the cost sharing agreement for the next year, accepting a cheque in the amount of $45,000 to help cover the costs of County residents using Morinville’s recreational facilities.
Neither Ellis nor Panganiban said they were qualified to speak to whether the funding model component of shared facilities was a motivator for the project. The study for them is about assessing what the six municipalities have to offer and what the needs are likely to be in the next few years as well as those 25 years down the road.
“I think there’s a genuine interesting in planning for the long-term future of recreation in the region,” Ellis said. “I think the cost sharing is a key component of that. I don’t think it’s a secret that part of our task is to look at a funding formula and cost-sharing agreement, but that’s just one component.”
While there is more to the plan than funding, there is more to the plan that brick and mortar buildings and open green spaces.
“Recreation from our perspective is a means to an end,” Ellis explained. “It’s not just about providing opportunities for people to recreate; it’s about addressing some of the growing social issues that we have. Whether it’s obesity, children in nature, delinquency and its effects. We’re really trying to address those, and based on those things we’re trying to achieve, we’re going to have the list of priorities for facilities and hopefully generalized locations.”
Those interested in taking part in the project are invited to complete an online survey at fluidsurveys.com/s/SRP-RecMP/.