Master plan recommends new recreation facilities in Erin

ERIN – A new multi-use facility at Barbour Field to replace the aging and undersized Hillsburgh arena is one of many ideas suggested in the parks, recreation and culture master plan being developed for the Town of Erin.

Town council received an interim report about the study on June 18 from Jon Hack of Sierra Planning and Management.

“The interim report will be the backbone of the rationale that is required for many of the recommendations,” Hack said.

“We wanted members of council to see where this plan is heading, in advance of us documenting the final part of this process. This is a 10-year plan, so you will expect to see us provide you with recommended action in years [one to five], then 6 to 10 will be lumped together. Internally, there will be some capital costing that will remain with staff.”

The project aims to “harness creativity and community vision” to promote health and wellness, identify trends and best practices and assess the diverse needs and desires of residents.

It will come up with an optimal configuration for active and passive park spaces and create a prioritized plan for investment.

Information gathering has included two sessions with councillors, two meetings with the public and stakeholders, an environment and sustainability-focused session, interviews with staff, a public survey, a user-group questionnaire and a youth survey.

Emerging themes cover possible improvements to parks and trails, with residents pointing to a lack of playgrounds, splash pads and aquatic facilities, and the need for age-specific programs and summer activities.

The survey of residents showed 67 per cent identifying an indoor pool as the most needed indoor facility in the town.

The arenas are considered “dated” and require improvements, and residents generally favour maintaining two locations. Ball diamonds and fields have poor drainage and limited amenities.

There are issues with compliance to accessibility standards for the disabled.

There is also a desire to keep rental rates affordable, to keep registration costs low, and a willingness to consider corporate sponsorships and funding.

The report to council states that with no expansion possible at the Hillsburgh community centre (arena), the town should consider investing in a new multi-use, multi-sport recreational hub on town-owned land at Barbour Field.

There has been increased demand for rental of the Hillsburgh ice from groups outside Erin. The study uses a standard of one ice pad per 7,500 population, with the undersized Hillsburgh ice counting only as half a pad.

In this calculation, there would not be a need for a new ice pad until 2029, with a third pad required by 2041. A Barbour Field facility could be designed to start with one ice pad, and expand to two in the future.

There is also the possibility of making more use of the Ballinafad community centre.

Bookings of the Centre 2000 theatre have declined significantly in the last three years, but it is still operating at a break-even financial position, the report states. Replacement of the seating should be continued “to improve user experience”.

The master plan will likely recommend expanded programming at the theatre for special events, musical performances and music screenings, through partnerships with local groups and businesses, to enhance revenue potential.

There is no apparent need for more ball diamonds or soccer fields in the town until at least 2029, and the town should consider converting some ball diamond land to other recreational uses, the report notes.

Some existing playgrounds require renewal or replacement, and there is a lack of playground provision in southwest Erin village.

The study notes that most parkland parcels in Erin village are very small. It suggests the town partner with the Erin Agricultural Society to enable regular public access to the Erin Fairgrounds for recreational purposes.

Growth in demand is expected for tennis and pickleball courts, and the master plan will suggest the possibility of multi-use courts.

Recreational programming has been minimal, though summer camps are being offered by the town for the first time this year.

The study recommends the town promote development of cultural events including performing and fine arts, and consider creating a signature event “building on Erin’s brand”.