Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Board recommends new swimming fees, revisits curling rink concerns

Construction site of spray park behind multi-purpose facility
Jonathan Skrimshire - The Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Board reached agreement on a new swimming pool fee structure for 2018 and engaged in further discussion of the proposed siting for a new curling rink at their meeting of Wednesday, December 6. The Board, consisting of Councillor Mark Barber and six members of the community, appeared in accord on the final recommendation regarding swimming pool admission fees. The issue of the proposed curling rink site, and the question of public input into the project, however, proved contentious and revealed frustrations within the group.

2018 swimming pool fee structure

After a thorough discussion of the existing pool fee structure and the 2017 free swimming initiative, which resulted in greatly increased use of the pool by families, the Board moved to recommend to Council that during regularly scheduled Family Swim and Open Swim periods children and youth under 17 should swim free, and a reduced adult fee of four dollars should apply. 

"You've got me sold on the kids for free" said Barber, stating that he was willing to make the case to Council for the Board's recommendation. Board chair John Verhagen cautioned that Council should consider this a long term recommendation, suggesting that it would not be desirable to adopt a limited free swimming policy for 2018 and then rescind it in future years. "Can we sustain this ongoing?", he asked, indicating that this is a question to which Council should give careful consideration.

Curling rink concerns revisited

The Board engaged in a frank exchange of views over the proposed siting of a new curling rink on the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds. The discussion revisited much of the same ground covered during the Board's November 15 meeting, with several members expressing firm opposition to the siting decision and evidencing growing frustration over the question of public input in the process.

Councillor Barber assured the members at large that Pincher Creek Town Council had taken the Board's previous discussion "very seriously", and explained proposed adjustments to the plan, which currently has the structure sited on Robertson Avenue, immediately northeast of the Multi-Purpose Facility. "The curling club will likely still be located there but will be pushed farther north and farther east", Barber said. "The field will be disrupted but there still will be a significant amount of green space."

Pincher Creek Recreation Manager Adam Grose explained the next steps in the project. "We have another Facilities meeting where more drawings are going to be coming on the 18th of December. I just received those", said Grose. "They [the Facilities Planning Steering Committee] will make a recommendation to Council, and Council then makes the decision whether they would like to proceed with a request for proposals, whether it is a design-build, more drawings, etc."

Several members at large remained very concerned that the project was moving ahead without adequate formal public input. "People are discussing this without knowing what's going on", said Judith Green. "People can't discuss it intelligently when they've got no facts. That's why people would like a public meeting where the Facilities Committee and the Town present the facts and listen to people's input."

Barber indicated that a public forum would be forthcoming. "We do plan to have an open house on it, or a presentation, but we don't have the whole package together", he said. Grose also emphasized that opportunities for input would exist. "There's plenty of opportunity for public input within the process because it's a new building going up on the site", he said, "so any building that goes up is a discretionary use and with that you get public hearings and so forth."

Green expressed what appeared a common theme of frustration. "Both of you just now, and at the Council meeting Scott Korbett, have said there is time for plenty of public input. Nobody is saying when", she said. "When I hear three different Town people saying there's opportunity for public input, I'd like some idea of when that is. [...] When are these vague points of input?"

Grandoni wanted to know at what point in the process the public forum would occur. "Is it at the very end, where thousands of dollars have been paid for these drawings? Or is it early enough the plug could be pulled and [the rink] could be moved?" Verhagen echoed Grandoni's concern over timing. "If the majority of people don't want it there, is it going to be like the Visitor's Centre in Waterton where it's a done deal?" he asked.

The Board discussed possible options to the Robertson Avenue site in the context of the overall facilities plan, touching upon near term plans to acquire a piece of land to create two new sports fields, long term plans to extend the library east, into the existing Multi-Purpose Facility parking lot, and the eventual need to replace the aging hockey arena.

"My suggestion is to build the curling rink in this newly negotiated land package area", said Green. "Then you don't affect the spray park and you don't have to rebuild the soccer field. But if the piece of land isn't there before the decision is made, then you don't even have that option."

"My recommendation is that if there is already a problem with parking, move the arena and the curling club, put in the necessary parking for the extended library and pool, and keep two separate entities", said Verhagen. "Because if you try to pack it all into [the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds] it's just going to be a nightmare. There won't be any green space left. It will just be a big parking lot."

The Board members were not fundamentally opposed to the curling rink project. The objections raised during the meeting were all directed at the specific plan being considered and the question of public input. "I think [a curling rink] is a great asset to the community", said Grandoni. "I just think we have to be smart about planning our community."

Forthcoming public meetings

Interested members of the public may wish to attend the forthcoming Council and committee meetings at which the curling club issue will be discussed. 

Pincher Creek Town Council will meet at 6:00 pm, Monday, December 11, at Pincher Creek Town Hall. Judith Green intends to address Council to argue for retention of the green space on the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds. Jennifer Draper, Billi Rigaux and Rose Murfin, intend to speak on behalf of the Spray Park Committee, and to present concerns regarding the proposed siting of the curling rink and its impact on the spray park.

The Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee next meets at 6:30 pm, December 18, at Pincher Creek Town Hall. Revised drawings of the proposed curling rink project will be presented and discussed at that time.

* edited for accuracy

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