Open house shows potential of parks

Joel Chevalier (right) talks with consultant John Buchko about one of the four proposed park plans during Thursday night’s open house. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A small group of residents, town staff, councillors and committee members had an opportunity to get a first glimpse look at the shape of things to come in Morinville’s parks. The Parks Plan Open House, held Thursday night at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre, drew a group of about 30 to view plans for Rotary Park, Heritage Lake, and proposed parks in the Lakes and Montreaux neighbourhoods.

Detailed diagrams of the parks were on display for residents and stakeholders to provide their opinions on, but none of the elements included in the diagrams are a guarantee of just what will be included in the final designs.

Morinville’s Director of Community Service, Kerry Dawson, said she has been working with a steering committee of local residents, business owners, and organization members to find out what the community has and what it would like to see in its parks. “We went out to every single park, spent some time at every single park, talked it through and asked what do you like, what do you not like?” Dawson said, adding comments were later analyzed and implemented into some initial park designs. “Our consultant put them on the plans. Overall we’ve captured everything that was said.”

Thursday night’s open house meeting was a continuation of the public consultation, an opportunity to see what residents thought of design elements as diverse as an observation deck at the Lakes and another community garden in Rotary Park. Though the elements presented were distinctly different in different parks, there was a common element.

“We had a theme going of natural environment,” Dawson explained. “If you go to a playground today, it’s been so sanitized, many of them.”

By contrast, some of the park elements presented Thursday night are more interactive. Hills to climb, sand to dig in and bushes to roam through. Dawson said the desire is to create park space that works through all seasons, including Morinville winters. Not only is the goal to have parks for all seasons but for all ages as well, a place equally enjoyed by toddler of senior.

John Buchko, a consultant with EDS Group, said the project has been a joint venture between Morinville’s administrative team and the steering committee of community members. “It’s very much a grass-roots process of gathering different perspectives, everything from students to teachers, commerce, the Rotary Club, Fish and Game,” he said. “Great representation on the committee to bring local perspectives to park design. We firmly believe park design is the most exciting and the most successful when done by local residents, and by people that not only live here but who are going to be stewards of these designs over the years. It was a great process of bringing a variety of people together in the process.”

Too early to know costs

Councillor Paul Krauskopf was one of four councillors to attend Thursday night’s open house. “I’m impressed with what I see here,” the councillor said after looking at the four park plans. “The only thing is seeing the dollars attached to it. To me it looks like significant dollars.”

Based on comments and input from participants in Thursday night’s open house, a new set of designs will be created from which to start laying down the numbers Krauskopf and his Council collleagues will eventually vote on. Those numbers will be rolled out as part of this year’s budget process but residents will not see all of the work done at once.

Dawson said the four parks and others would likely be tackled in a phased approach, one where work would be done as funding is available, either through budget dollars or investment from community groups.

[SUBHEAD]Park planning previously planned

Council voted unanimously this past June to reallocate funds originally earmarked for the development of a park in the Lakes-Champagne District to the series of site plans for parks in town. At that time, Council agreed with Administration’s recommendation to use the $130,000 available in the 2012 budget to develop site plans for three of four parks: Lakes-Champagne, Heritage Lake and Montreaux. As Notre Dame was then in a period of transition with the addition of modular classrooms as well as expanded parking facilities, Administration recommended deferring the development of a park at Notre Dame until the consolidation was completed.

At the time, Dawson estimated the cost of the three site plans to be in the $70,000 to $80,000 range including public consultation. It was felt pooling the plans would leave $50,000 to $60,000 to go back into future park development.

Council is currently working on Budget 2013 and is planning two open houses in early November. It is anticipated park funding numbers will be available at that time for residents to provide further input on.

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