ELORA – Centre Wellington has endorsed a new Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan.
At the July 26 council meeting managing director of community services Pat Newson presented the master plan, including several revisions based on council comments.
The top priorities of the plan include:
– targeting a total parkland supply of 120 hectares by 2028;
– investigating the feasibility of municipal involvement in the indoor artificial turf market with a local field sport organization;
– undertaking an architectural and needs assessment for the Elora Community Centre to address lifecycle issues, accessibility and ways to accommodate more uses, including indoor turf sports, indoor walking, personal fitness and wellness, and programs for children, youth and older adults;
– continuing to provide direct and indirect support to cultural programs, services and festivals/events;
– conducting architectural and needs assessments for the Victoria Park Seniors Centre to explore the costs associated with further expansion;
– hosting annual focus groups with volunteers and volunteer groups;
– preparing an update to the Cultural Action Plan;
– developing a pricing policy for true costs to deliver parks, recreation and culture programs and services; and
– exploring opportunities to rejuvenate parks when they’re at the point where reinvestments are required.
The Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan was initiated in the summer of 2017. After review the final document was presented on July 26.
Newson explained many concerns revolve around parks that were addressed in the final draft document.
Originally, the plan identified the need for 23 hectares of additional parkland.
However, through further study, it was identified that there is a need for 120 hectares of parkland dedication by 2028 (through population estimates), with only 104 hectares of new parkland scheduled by about 2022.
Newson said the deficit is 16 hectares by 2028.
“Future parks should preferably consist of typologies that are conducive to active recreation and/or cultural uses,” she said. “And based on historical uses, the township can expect to receive eight to 10 hectares from parkland dedications based on future growth projections.”
This means the township would likely be responsible for obtaining an additional six to eight hectares of parkland by 2028.
Councillor Kirk McElwain said he thinks the township needs to change the park strategy to provide space in rural areas as well as urban areas.
“There is cash in lieu of parkland and that works reasonably well in town because there’s always another park someplace close by, but for the rural areas there is no park close by,” he said. “There is no room for a park close by.”
Anand Desai, associate planner for Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, which worked on the master plan, said the decision to take cash in lieu of parkland may be due to the size of the park or if there’s already existing parks in the area – but it’s the municipality’s decision as to whether it takes cash or land.
“We’re showing where there are gaps in parks and obviously a lot of the parks are concentrated in urban areas,” Desai said. “I don’t think there’s anything in the master plan that discourages the acceptance of land where you and your staff feel there is a gap.”
McElwain said his comment was more about staff moving forward than the actual master plan.
Newson said an item has been added to the plan to address concern that current park land could be re-purposed to improve the parkland inventory.
“As parks age to a point where reinvestments are required, explore opportunities to rejuvenate them to meet the needs of residents and visitors,” Newson said.
“Doing so should involve the community as well as examining additional resource requirements, example staffing, maintenance and equipment requirements to support the re-imagined park.”
McElwain asked to change that line “because it implies that we’re waiting until the parks age and I don’t know how you define that. I think instead it should read that ‘parks should be investigated for best use’ or something of that idea.”
Desai explained the plan is not saying to wait a certain amount of time for a park to be considered for renewal.
Addressing aging parks looks at the lifecycle of all park components like playgrounds, sports fields and structures, and evaluates when each will begin to break down.
The aging park component will also look at changing neighbourhoods and demographics and whether the park meets the needs of its surrounding citizens.
“So as much as we’ve used the word age, it doesn’t imply a physical year or a set year,” Desai said.
Newson also addressed a council concern that most seniors’ programming is at the Victoria Park Seniors Centre in Fergus.
To evaluate what could be offered in Elora the assessment of the Elora Community Centre will include the consideration of preschool, youth and older adult activities and recreation program uses.
Newson said staff is in discussion with pickle ball enthusiasts who currently use the Fergus sportsplex.
“They want to see how they can use the Elora Community Centre,” she said.
Newson also identified Wellington County’s new ride-share program as an opportunity to get seniors to Fergus easily.
“We’ll explore how that can be best used for that purpose,” she said.
Council also asked for greater emphasis on cultural programming.
Newson said one of the recommendations is “to continue to create opportunities for Centre Wellington to provide direct and indirect support to cultural programs, services, festivals and events through the allocation of resources including the development of a sustainable funding strategy, marketing and communications, volunteer development and/or the provision of space.”
Newson said the master plan should be reviewed on a regular basis to evaluate new populations and development trends, changes in the program or facility inventory, and future participation practices of residents.
“It’s not meant to be a stagnant document, but a guiding document for the township,” Newson said.
The next steps include an implementation plan to address the recommendations and best practices provided in the master plan.
Through the annual budget process, projects and initiatives that have been identified will be provided as detailed plans for council consideration.
For more information about the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan visit bit.ly/33qs9Gy.