By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board members got a glimpse into the timeline of what it will take to do a recreation master plan, a plan that has not been done in town since 1985.
Town council had allocated $2,500 towards having an open house, and advertising for the initiative that will be built in-house to create and promote all-season recreational opportunities and facilities that are regionally recognized.
The recreation master plan would first involve doing a detailed list of all town facilities along with programs and services. Then town staff would examine who and how Taber residents are utilizing their recreation.
“We want to have an idea of the demographics and trends. For instance, is hockey growing? How is soccer going? Gymnastics seems to be growing,” Greg Birch, CAO for the Town of Taber at the Taber Recreation Board’s meeting on Oct. 2. “You want to know where the trends are going so you can invest your time and money in them.”
In hearing of trends and demographics, Birch cautioned that no one group dominates the discussion in getting feedback from the community in planned recreation planning workshops.
“You may very well hear from the hockeys and the soccers, the broad groups, but maybe there are bicyclists who are very interested in getting some sort of west coast trail thing established by the land fill site,” said Birch.
“The idea would be to have a workshop using some structured techniques and let people know the exact facilities we have. We will identify our strengths and what our shortfalls are from discussions. It’s getting people talking not just about their own interests, but you are trying to get them to think in a community-wide fashion.”
Thoughts are to invite as many groups as possible to the workshops where perhaps there is a limit of two people per organization or group in identifying what the community needs and what is already being planned by various groups.
“We want to try and get communication as even as possible. You may get a group of seniors there that speak strongly about trails and sway the margins and you want to get a balance in the message,” said Birch.
The workshop would not be the sole driver of direction, but a start as a household survey as well (mail out and on-line) with a variety of questions requesting information on what recreational activities people believe are most important.
“You could have a top six identified (in the recreation planning workshop), then the next step in the household survey could end up identifying things that were maybe not part of a group, but just a part of the community who feels strongly.”
“We’ve seen communities where things were down like 12th or 13th on the list (at the workshop), but as a whole of the community in the surveys they becomes bigger priority as opposed to just the user groups,” added Aline Holmen, recreation manager for the Town of Taber.
“We really want to stress that all voices are included. There’s people out there that might not be able to make the workshop, so it’s important that we get that other feedback too.”
After the workshop and surveys are completed would be when the recreation board would come in along with administration in the recreation master plan development.
“We’ve heard all of this, now how an we filter through it all and what should be putting our money and time behind,” said Birch. “What is more important and what is less important?”
The town would then hold an open house to check the draft plan to check with the public for acceptance if the master plan was indeed the vision they had and make any alterations at that point based on the feedback. The recreation master plan would then be presented to council for approval.
“There is no time line on here, but generally speaking, we will keep working and flesh out some of these elements and we would be targeting the planning workshop for November,” said Birch. “The survey would be a little after that.”
Taber Recreation Board member Luke Wijna was pleased to hear of the format in which as much feedback as possible is encouraged and inquired if the M.D. of Taber was going to be included.
“We have a lot of facilities in town, but we have a lot of facilities out of town also that are being used and the M.D. is part of our area,” said Wijna. I realize we are the Town of Taber, but the majority of our facilities are being used by the M.D. population.”
Town councillor and recreation board member Randy Sparks noted M.D. resident feedback could be picked up by the user groups that attend the workshop who may be M.D. residents themselves and through the online survey.
“I don’t think we are segregating the M.D. out of this process whatsoever. We need their input and residents will have an opportunity to fill out a survey online,” said Sparks. “We need to hear from our residents from outside the Town of Taber.”
The idea of perhaps having a pre-registration for the workshop would be encouraged so the town and administration would have a feel of how many people would be attending, and also encourage other people to sign up that may not be part of your traditional user groups like hockey, soccer, baseball, football etc. to get a wide-range of opinions.
“You need to have that balance so it’s not just 10 people coming and stealing the meeting,” said Birch.