By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – With the latest census figures freshly in, Morinville could be growing faster than the consultants who put together Morinville’s Recreation Parks and Open Spaces Master Plan envisioned. Consultants from RC Strategies projected Morinville’s population at 8,500 to 10,000 in 2013, not realizing census numbers released to council at the same meeting show Morinville is already at 8,503 residents. But while the consultants may have underestimated the Town’s future population, their assessment of Morinville’s future parks and rec needs were on the money with the majority of council who adopted the plan as presented.
Council voted 5-1 in favour of adopting the consultant’s recommendations. Councillor Ben Van de Walle was the sole opposing vote. Councillor Nicole Boutestein was not in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Greener and more connected community
The plan outlines the Morinville of 2011 to 2021 to be a greener and more connected community with an increasing number or hard surfaced multi-ways, community gardens, parks and playgrounds and the potential for a substantial sports and recreation facility that would combine a number of sports, recreation and outdoor pursuits into one facility.
The plan breaks the process down into short, mid-term and long-term goals, taking Morinville’s parks and rec expansion through a three-phased approach: 2011-2013, 2014-2018 and 2019 and beyond.
RC Strategies suggest the short-term costs of the plan would be approximately $2.3 million between 2011 and 2013. Of that figure, approximately $688,000 would be spent on multi-ways, $200,000 for a new playground in the Lakes subdivision and $100,000 for plants and trees per year as the trail and park system grows.
The focus of the short-term goal is an increase in what the consultants refer to as multi-ways, 3 to 3.5 metre hard surfaced pathways suitable for people walking dogs, families with strollers, and those who like to bike, walk or run through town.
“We want to see you improve your pedestrian system,” Randal Conrad of RC Strategies told Council Aug. 9, pointing out traffic around the community was more than just vehicles.
The short-term plan calls for expanding the municipal walkway from 2m to 3m on 100 Street between 100 Avenue and 101 Avenue as well as along 100 Avenue from 100 Street to the East Boundary Road. In addition to the expanded surface, the plan calls for benches every 100 metres, landscaping and signage. New multi-ways would be created along the north side of 100 Street south to 101 Avenue as well as a trail that would travel north from the east end of 100 Avenue, connecting with the existing multi-way. Smaller multi-ways would be created in the Lakes subdivision and storm pond south to Morinville Community High School, connecting with the multi-way there.
St. Jean Baptiste Park under viewed
The consultants identified St. Jean Baptiste Park as a location in need of a modified landscaping plan to better expose the heritage buildings and site lines along 100 Avenue.
But St. Jean Baptiste Park is not the only one identified as a short-term priority. The plan also calls for new neighbourhood playground in the Lakes subdivision park that would include an internal walkway system. Additionally, the consultants recommend the Town of Morinville use reserve lands adjacent to Notre Dame Elementary School to create an improved sports field for soccer and baseball with improved parking opportunities for users. The plan also calls for the relocation of Morinville’s poorly repaired tennis courts to either the arena area or to undeveloped reserve land north of MCHS.
Community gardens an integral part
The plan recommends the Town of Morinville implement rentable community garden plots by 2012 with a progressive increase of available space as demand requires. Conrad explained the dense layout of many housing developments does not afford homeowners the space many would like to be able to garden.
Potential sites for an expanded community garden program include public reserve land in the northern part of the Lakes subdivision and the Sanitary Lift Station area at the east end of 100 Avenue. Future expansion could occur in the northwest section of Morinville adjacent the CNR tracks.
Heritage Lake redevelopment
The short-term plan calls for preliminary work at Heritage Lake, located opposite Highway 2. The consultants recommend Morinville work toward improving picnicking and passive use of the location as well as improve all season fishing opportunities. Part of the plan would include safe pedestrian access routes along 100 Avenue.
Although not in the short-term plan for completion, the consultants recommend Morinville use the short-term planning time to contemplate where a future community-wide recreation hub could be located. One possible location is the Heritage Lake area. Regardless of where it would ultimately be, the consulting firm recommends a minimum of 10 hectares with additional adjacent land for ancillary services, including hotels, gas stations, etc.
Off leash park unlikely
Despite interest in an off leash park for resident’s dogs, the view of the consultants was such a park would create conflicting uses. Their recommendation is for Morinville to work with Sturgeon County of private land owners to obtain a lease or outright land purchase for a specific off leash park.
Aquatic centre in long-term plans
Conrad said an aquatic centre is a need that is not going to go away in the community; however, he suggested it would be sustainable with a population base of 15,000 residents, a situation placing it in the plan’s long- rather than short-term goals.
Although Council has adopted the consultant’s plan, it is not a guarantee that all recommendations will happen according to recommended schedules or at all. The adoption of the plan is an agreement to use it as a guideline in connection with the town of Morinville’s Municipal Sustainability Plan and Municipal Development Pan.
The complete document may be viewed online at www.morinville.ca.