By Cole Parkinson
With most of the heavy lifting done with the Municipal District of Taber’s Recreation Master Plan, councillors were able to do a deeper dive into what the document entailed.
During the policy committee meeting on Jan. 6, several of the big points stemming from HarGroup Management Consultants’ document were brought forward for a larger discussion.
“I led the recreation master plan, the administration part, laying out what we wanted in the plan. We are currently doing what many other municipalities are doing in southern Alberta. We aren’t doing anything different in how we provide recreation services through community groups and volunteerism. That being said, (HarGroup) has made some recommendations and some strategies to possibly improve or do more with recreation based on the community surveys and feedback they received,” said Bryan Badura, director of corporate services.
Several objectives were the main points of discussion for the committee as they all pointed to areas where the M.D. could better implement strategies or continue with how they were currently doing things.
The first objective was facilitating local and regional services.
“So, ‘Services development should be dependent on the scope of market demand, operational capacity and funding considerations.’ That is what they are recommending for any future recreation, take those things into account, and even current recreation,” explained Badura.
Community-based services (playgrounds, community halls, senior facilities, campgrounds etc.), community-wide services (M.D. Park, M.D. shooting complex, etc.) and major recreation facilities and services (arenas, pools, etc.) are touched on in regard to maintenance, operation, development and funding.
The plan points to the fact services and facilities in hamlets should continue to be operated by local community groups.
“I think we’ve been doing that already, even though it is an objective and it’s recommended to continue to do that,” added Badura. “When we are looking at recreation, what types of recreation should be provided by community-based organizations versus offered by the municipality.”
The second objective is addressing regional issues for services which is described as a way to work collaboratively with urban municipalities while ensuring that resident needs are advocated and access to services is maintained.
Communication and collaboration with the Town of Taber and Town of Vauxhall about recreation issues and developments are listed as one of the strategies.
Supporting growth and change within the community is the third objective and is described as a way to respond to initiatives that support community needs in areas experiencing population increases within the community and growing demographic segments.
Addressing population growth areas is a major focus in this area of the plan, especially Grassy Lake which has continued to grow.
“The items noted are respond to population growth in Grassy Lake and recognize growing populations segments such as seniors, young families and immigrants throughout the community. Like I said, it is not like we aren’t doing these things, I think we are doing a lot of these things. The objective is to continue to do them or do more of them,” continued Badura.
Even with that in mind, the report states ‘there is not a strong case for the development of more recreation facilitates in the M.D. with the possible exception of the end to address population growth in and around Grassy Lake.’
Meanwhile, Johnson’s Addition and Purple Springs are not expected to ‘require development of community-based services, except possibly playground/tot lots and trails and pathways.’
Enhancing capacity building within communities was focused on.
“That is to provide maintenance and facility lifecycle planning, support for communities, facility program opportunities in communities, foster organization capacity and support development of outdoor spaces in hamlets,” explained Badura.
Grassy Lake was once again focused on as the hamlet has an ageing facility that is used extensively in the community.
“We do have some ageing facilities, how do we plan to replace the Grassy Lake Community Centre, for example? I know replacing the building in Grassy Lake is huge,” stated Reeve Merrill Harris.
Badura pointed to a specific item listed in the plan regarding that particular facility.
“I think the item here that requires more activity from the M.D. of Taber is ‘initiate a facility lifecycle planning and review process for community-based services facilities, typically, this process is beyond capacity of volunteer groups. The review would identify ongoing maintenance issues and costs and possibly identify safety issues. Consider establishing a lifecycle reserve fund that could be used to fund future maintenance and development of community-based services facilities.’ What is indicated there is to go to the next step, and if it is with M.D. staff resources and knowledge, to go out and do some inspections and assessments on the building for future needs. When we have that information, build a reserve fund to assist or help with replacement. It is not just building by building, it would encompass everything as a whole so council can make decisions. For example, we had some community halls that closed down, the assets were sold and the funds could have been reallocated to other recreation facilities for potentially rebuilding in various communities.”
As someone who has lived in the Grassy Lake area for an extended time, Coun. Brian Brewin explained what he saw as being needed.
“The (Grassy Lake) Hall, they have done the best they can with it. At some point, we probably do need to look at some outdoor facilities. I know we talked about a bike path or track,” he said. “They have expanded and they are definitely using all of the space.”
The next two objectives are formalizing recreation funding criteria and processes and planning for potential changes in financial situation.
The first deals with developing systems and procedures for evaluating Recreation Grants and capital contribution funding to partner organizations while the second is reviewing funding for parks and recreation services based on community needs identified in the planning process.
One request the M.D. has been asked is providing more funding for recreation from both the Town of Taber and Town of Vauxhall.
“Even the current amount we are giving (for recreation), we did a comparison with rural municipalities. We chose not to pick and choose municipalities across the province,” said Badura, who explained nearby municipalities were chosen for the comparison. “The average for other municipalities to rec boards, other organizations, urban municipalities is $466,281. We give, on an annual basis, $538,365. We provide $75.05 in grants to community groups, other municipalities and recreation boards. The average is $77.74 so we are very close.”
“I know the two towns (Taber and Vauxhall) are asking for more recreation funding. I guess, we are right in the ballpark of what others do,” added Harris.
Administration added a final survey was being done and a further discussion of the document would be coming to a future council meeting.