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Friday, November 17, 2017

Pincher Creek's free swimming praised, proposed curling rink site questioned


Jonathan Skrimshire - Thumbs up to free swimming and thumbs down to the new curling rink site was the main takeaway from the November 15th meeting of the Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Committee. Members expressed great satisfaction with the results of the 2017 free swimming initiative and a desire to consider extending the policy into 2018. Reaction to the proposed siting of a new curling rink and parking lot in the green space northeast of the Multi-purpose Facility, on the other hand, was decidedly negative. After airing various objections to the specific site selected, the committee passed a motion calling upon Council to engage in public consultation regarding the curling rink project.

Free swimming extension to be considered

The committee, consisting of Councillor Mark Barber and six members of the community, discussed the free swimming initiative at some length. Diane Burt Stuckey, Director of Community Services, noted that pool usage has increased in the range of 15 to 20 per cent in 2017 as a result of the free access policy. The group considered the positive impact for low income families, whether free access was hurting other paid pool programs, the amount of revenue being lost, and the policies in place in other communities.

"The final question is how much is Town Council willing to use taxpayer dollars to support the pool as compared to user paid access" said committee chair John Verhagen. "That is the question that has to be asked". The committee will examine the issue in detail at its forthcoming December 6th meeting and make a formal recommendation to Council.

Call for public consultation on curling rink project

The committee engaged in a lengthy, candid exchange of views regarding the recently revealed plan to site a new curling rink on Robertson Avenue, north of the existing Multi-purpose Facility parking lot. 

Councillor Barber characterized the siting decision as "pretty much a done deal", noting that Council has agreed to provide the Curling Club a formal letter of support outlining the Town's commitments of funding and land for the project, and that the Club's CFEP grant application is already under way.*

Proposed siting of new curling rink and related facilities and parking (from Town of Pincher Creek documents)

Barber went on to explain the plan to replace the field that would be lost to the curling rink project. "We are already in land purchase negotiations to pick up another piece of land to build two new green fields" said Barber, indicating one of the new fields would be of a higher grade, including bleachers and changing rooms.

The members at large weren't sold on the plan, expressing a clear preference for retaining the existing playing field and green space on the Multi-purpose Facility grounds. "It's a great spring, summer and fall space" said Judith Green. "You're covering up and losing a great asset to the town."

Verhagen indicated his biggest concern was that the community would be losing its favourite soccer field, which is in a relatively sheltered location, while any site for a new field would inevitably be exposed and windy. "The curling club can be in a wind prone area. That's not a problem" he said. "My question to Council is, who's more important here? The kids outdoors? Or a bunch of adults going into a building?"

Green wanted to know if anyone had actually counted the number of families that participate in soccer or that might make use of the spray park and compared those figures to the number of active curlers. "To me it seems adults are getting the preferential site over children" she said.

Verhagen seemed troubled that nobody was effectively championing the interests of the youngsters most affected by the siting decision. "The golf course said 'no' to the Curling Club, so Council backed away ... Kids aren't going to come over and say 'We don't want the curling Club here! This is our soccer field!' Kids aren't organized that way."

Kari Grandoni emphasized the utility and appeal of retaining the existing playing field. "As a parent, I can have one kid in the pool and one playing soccer, and it's all central." Her most forceful criticism, however, was directed at the impact the siting decision would have on the spray park, currently under construction. Also a member of the Spray Park Committee, she was clearly not a happy camper. "We're wrecking the spray park by putting [the rink] there" said Grandoni emphatically. "I'm quite upset about this" she added, "and there are others that have spent far more time on this than I."

Grandoni expressed both the appeal of the original spray park vision and the disappointment with the decision to surround the new amenity with structures and parking. "It's such an awesome area for the spray park, with the green space. Kids can run and be kids" she said. "Now we're going to have to put a fence around it." 

"I think it's important that the community has an opportunity to bring forward their comments, ideas, concerns" said Burt Stuckey, as the committee addressed the question of the lack of public input in the rink siting decision and how best to proceed.

"People don't know that this is where [the curling rink] is going to be" said Verhagen, signalling his intention to make a motion calling for formal public consultation. "The public has never been told. It was in the Pincher Creek Voice, but there has never been a public open house with regards to plans, facilities, where it is going to be put, how big, or costs".

"Isn't that part of due diligence?" asked Grandoni, noting that the spray park project included an open house at which all locations under consideration were presented and discussed. "I don't understand how this could go through without having the same process."

The motion calling upon Council to engage in public consultation passed unanimously. It now falls to Council to decide the appropriate timing and format for engaging the public. The committee's recommendation will be put forward at the next Council meeting, 6:00 pm Monday, November 27, at Pincher Creek Town Hall.

*Editor's note: This will be the subject of an upcoming story

Related story:
Pincher Creek curling rink site selection proceeding

4 comments:

  1. Maybe they could use the old sobeys building or knock down the current curling rink and build new. Maybe it would give some life to main street.

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  2. Our kids are running out of green space to play and it is a better economical choice to leave the soccer field there and no a curling rink. We will have a better chance of families wondering around and going to shops downtown when the weather is nice then we are when it’s freezing cold out. Plus what impact will it have on the skate park for the kids. I really don’t like the idea of losing green space it did us no good when the new Soby’s Building was built and we lost a really nice in town park to a concrete building that has been empty for years. Please reconsider putting the rink else where and leave what is left of our in town green space alone. We are use to paying at the pool anyways so put the money into finding a better location for the rink.

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  3. The curling rink has been a discussion since 2009. Based on engineer reports, repairs need to be done structurally or a new building built by 2018. The rink is over 60 years old. It is an astronomical cost to rebuild and so a new building is comparably less of a cost. I realise green space is also an issue. However, the curling rink and various locations have been discussed at length through council meetings, facility meetings and in the media over the past 9 years. We would have loved to build in our current location but there is not enough room to build a new building according to new building codes. As far as the sobeys building, the owners are not willing to sell. We really have exhausted our choices of where to put a rink. It's not just an adult facility. We have a strong junior program where kids aged10 and up can curl. All schools use the curling rink as curling is part of the curriculum and a lifelong skill. Seniors and people with physical challenges can also curl and get some exercise in our Sturling program. These comments and questions are all valid. Please trust your council and facility committee as they have looked at multiple sites and scenarios in detail over the past two years. If you have questions about the curling rink please contact pinchercreekcurlingclub@gmail.com.

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  4. All of these are valid questions and concerns. As a curling club executive, we have had the same concerns. I would like to provide some answers and background for this matter. The curling rink is not just for adults. We have a strong junior program and the schools use it for their physical education curriculum. In fact, Canyon school received a grant last year for a curling program for the school. It is recognised as a lifelong sport. Anyone from age 10-85 can play. Our sturling leauge gives seniors and those with physical challenges the opportunity for social interactions and physical exercise. The rink has been a discussion for many years, especially since 2009. At that time an engineers report was done and found that the structure itself would last approximately 8-10 years. We are approaching that deadline. It is astronomically more costly to repair the building so we have tried to look into building a new one. The last 3 town councils and the facilities committee have looked into this matter at length and in depth over the last 9 years and especially the last 2 years.

    The Sobeys building was one of our first choices but the owners are unwilling to sell. We would have loved to build in our current location but with current building codes, we do not have enough space. We have looked at several other possible locations over the last 9 years. The proposed downtown location was always a possible location, and like everyone else, we did not want to lose green space. However, after many discussions, it seems like the best scenario. Maybe a green space can go where the current curling rink is. If anyone has questions about curling or the new curling rink, we are happy to discuss. We love to curl and care about our community. pinchercreekcurlingclub@gmail.com

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