By Trevor Busch
To determine the recreational priorities of Taber residents for an upcoming Recreation Master Plan, town council has been provided with an outline of the process from RC Strategies + PERC.
A Recreation Master Plan is a high-level strategic plan for the Recreation Department designed to guide decision making, justify investments, identify priorities, and provide direction.
“The rec master plan is a major project that will entail about 23 weeks to complete,” said recreation director Dawn Phillips at town council’s May 27 meeting. “It will give the town direction over the next decade or more on future development, and to help guide us in our capital budget planning in the future.”
Co-project manager Ryan Schwartz with RC Strategies + PERC, the firm contracted by the town to complete the master plan, explained that the document is not intended to be a detailed capital plan but rather a guideline for town decisions.
“A rec master plan is not going to be a detailed 10-year capital plan with all the costs laid out for the next 10 years, but hopefully it does provide enough detail to start you in the right direction, kind of get that momentum rolling, and make sure that it’s informing capital plans and what not moving forward.”
Contents of a plan typically include vision and mission, values and principles, goals, benefits, and outcomes. Other considerations are programming, partnerships, policies, supporting community groups and volunteers, promoting opportunities, allocating rental spaces, fees and cost recoveries, affordability, and cost efficiencies. In relation to infrastructure, consideration is given to maintaining existing facilities and spaces, the process of decommissioning, identifying needs, prioritizing potential projects, and how to plan for new infrastructure.
“Typically when people think of a rec master plan, they flip to the section where it shows what’s going to be the new facilities over the next 10 years,” said Schwartz. “But that is just a small part of what a rec master plan is. It will identify what some of those priorities are, but I just wanted to mention the fact that maintaining existing facilities and spaces is kind of the number one priority for us. Before we think about what we need in the future, how are we taking care of the facilities we already have. Looking at the life span of some of the facilities, what’s the process of decommissioning or rejuvenating them, or building them from scratch, some considerations around that.”
Research for the plan consists of a planning review, population and demographics, current facilities and programs, service delivery and trends. To engage citizens, the group will be conducting a household survey, community group survey, stakeholder interviews, and internal interviews. Developing the plan requires a research report, visioning session, community workshop, the creation of a draft recreation master plan, and a public and stakeholder review.
“Through this process, we’re going to have a big wish list of what people want to see in the community,” said Schwartz. “So it will be kind of our job to sort through what’s a want versus a need, what are some of those top priorities, how do we prioritize them in a transparent way so that when we do make decisions, some people or groups might not be happy, but at least they can see a process behind that decision making that we can stand behind.”
RC Strategies + PERC is now engaged in formulating an entirely new rec master plan for the municipality, but according to an initial proposal provided to the town in late October 2018, updating the town’s original rec master plan — developed in-house in 2016 — would have taken about three months at a cost range between $15,000 -$20,000.
“We’ll look at all of the previous planning that you’ve done,” said Schwartz. “You don’t want to start from scratch. I know that you did do some work a couple of years ago around recreation planning, so we’ll consider all of those, the feasibility studies that have taken place, like the Small Ice investigation, and I know there has been some work around indoor field feasibility. So all of that will be considered.”
Originally, the town had intended to develop a new Regional Recreation Master Plan in 2019 — a partnership that was eventually declined by the town’s municipal neighbours — using the 2016 plan as a starting point, and was expected to take up to 10 months and cost anywhere between $60,000 -$90,000.
Coun. Garth Bekkering inquired if RC Strategies + PERC would be formulating their plan in close alignment with the recreational priorities of the Municipal District of Taber.
“They’re on the list of stakeholders to be invited to those face-to-face stakeholder meetings, and we definitely will be talking with them,” said Schwartz. “It’s my understanding they are doing a similar process right now, and so we want to make sure that we’re collaborating and if there’s any ways that we can align our plans, we will.”
The project is expected to be completed before the end of 2019.