Two Public Forums Collect Additional Feedback on Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan

Last week, two meetings were held to collect public input on the strategic plan for the future of the Parks and Recreational Programs and facilities investments that might be desirable over the next 12 years to address the recreational needs of a growing community.

The strategic plan provides background information and recommendations regarding how to address the current and future leisure service, parks and open space requirements to make desirable, affordable and sustainable recreational opportunities to residents of all ages across the township. Definitions and objectives were derived from a national report published in 2015 which described recreation as the voluntary “participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits that enhance the individual and community well-being.”  Recreational opportunities that support citizen physical and social well-being are seen to contribute to a high quality of life.

An analysis of existing facilities within the township compared them to guidelines based on population levels to identify where there was a perceived shortfall in recreational opportunities and where there was a surplus.  This analysis caused some confusion as it contradicted user experience, particularly in soccer.  It concluded that we have adequate facilities in ice surfaces, tennis courts, playgrounds, boat launches and multi-purpose facilities, and temporarily an adequate field house in the old arena.

The objective of the strategic plan is to recommend the development of facilities, programs, parks and open spaces that are financially sustainable; that are driven by local volunteer organizations and that take a collaborative approach with other community groups, school boards and townships and integrate services and resources such as research and planning, service and facility provision, programs and events.

The four strategic directions the report suggests the township pursue are the integration recreation and culture opportunities; enhancing and connecting our parks and open spaces; providing quality recreation and culture facilities; and providing programs to meet growing and changing needs to 2035.  The report does not address specific plans for the redevelopment of the old arena and the development of the remaining land around the CMCC.  The consultant is eager to develop detailed plans for both properties as a third phase of the project, which has not been approved.

At last week’s forums, participants formed small groups to answer three questions about the plan in its current state; what they liked about it, what they couldn’t live with and what they would like to add to it.

Twelve residents attended the Wednesday evening session, and expressed a general concern that the recreational priorities were too concentrated in the Millbrook area.  Participants were eager to ensure that other parts of the township also received recreational investments, and supported the rejuvenation of small neighbourhood parks such as Edgewood.  There was some support for relocating the ball diamond at Maple Leaf Park to make room for more soccer pitches, making that location Cavan Monaghan’s soccer mecca.

Participants were firmly opposed to several potential recreational investments, including an indoor pool and a second ice pad.  Neither item was identified as a priority in the report due to their costs and the proliferation of other opportunities with broader appeal.  Recommended additions to the plan were few, and included paving shoulders to facilitate cycling and addressing the downtown parking shortage in any redevelopment plans for that area.

The consultant will submit the final report to Council in the next few weeks.  Some of the smaller projects are currently under consideration as the Parks and Recreation Department develop their capital budget request for 2024, including potential shade structures at Maple Leaf Park and the Old Millbrook School.

The finished report will provide the township with a comprehensive list of existing recreational land and facilities and their current conditions, as well as a plethora of options with an indication of priorities as communicated through public meetings, surveys, user group and resident input.  Next comes one of the hardest parts- finding the cash to deliver on those expectations.  KG

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