Monday, December 18, 2017

Town of Pincher Creek Council hears citizens' curling rink concerns

Jonathan Skrimshire - Two citizen delegations addressed Pincher Creek Town Council at their meeting of December 11 to express objections to the proposed siting of a new curling rink on the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds. Judith Green, a member at large of the Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Board, presented personal remarks arguing for preservation of the entire green space area north of the existing pool and library. Jennifer Draper, Rose Murfin and Billi Rigaux, speaking on behalf of the Spray Park Committee, expressed their concerns over the impact of the proposed rink structure and parking lot on the spray park. In a lengthy back and forth discussion with the delegation speakers, Council members demonstrated their willingness to hear the views being expressed and evidenced flexibility regarding the final siting decision.

Judith Green's address to Council

The following is an abridged version of Judith Green's prepared remarks to Council. Reproduced with permission.

"I am writing this to give voice to the value of SPACE. Contiguous park space, play space, nature space. Free, open, public space.

I grew up in Medicine Hat, and from the age of 5 until teen years, I went a minimum of 6 blocks and more, with my sister, and then my friends, to 2 large park spaces, every day of the summer.

Those parks had trees for shade, the sound of birds, laughter of other kids, wading pools or creeks, caves, washrooms, playground equipment, picnic tables, drinking fountains, both manicured hedges and native scrubby bushes that afforded crawl spaces, hiding spaces, fort spaces. There were playground supervisors with programs if you wanted, there were moms and toddlers in the wading pool if you wanted to be near adults, but there was endless space to get away from adults as well.

As a child, everything you needed was there: space, shade, water for play and drinking, bathrooms. You went simply, in your shorts and t-shirt, walked or rode your bike, and went home when you were hungry or someone told you the time.
The only open green space in Pincher Creek that comes close to affording all of those amenities is the Spray Park, soccer field, tennis courts, bike park and creek path and creek. Please value that entire space and the potential it gives for children, families, people of all ages, to leave their cars and walk, run, hide, sit, build, chase, laugh, get angry, be alone or meet up, soak up the sun, feel the air, listen to the birds, race and roll, stare at the sky and the trees.

Please, say NO to another building in this location. Do not allow it to be fractured and diminished. Presently, it is a multi-purpose park without a name. Lets keep it, name it, value it. A named park is recognized as an asset, and I suggest that no one would consider re-claiming Juan Tehran Park, or Dilmer Park for a location to build a new parking lot and curling rink.

In my 30 years here I have witnessed two pieces of public park space be taken for buildings and parking lots. This open space behind the pool is the last piece left in the core of our community. Let's recognize it's value to Pincher Creek, name it and preserve it."

Spray Park Committee members address Council

Jennifer Draper, visibly affected by Green's remarks and struggling with emotion, echoed Green's call for spaces in which children could roam and play freely. "It means a lot that we have kids be able to go somewhere and let them be free", Draper said. "We are bubble-wrapping our children and not giving them the space they need to be kids. To just go and play."

Rose Murfin spoke on the original concept of the spray park project and the advantages of the site that had been selected. "Our vision was that we would have a green area where families could gather, maybe have picnics", she said. "I think a lot of the community supported us in that vision, that it would be a park area and that families would be able to spend the afternoon there."

Billi Rigaux emphasized the appeal of the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds as a safe and welcoming play space for young children. "I work in early childhood development", she said. "My number one place that I played with children all summer was that field." Rigaux described the way in which she frequently used the area for outings with local youngsters, and also spoke of her own daughter's attachment to the spot. "I have a child. That's her favourite place to play", she said. "Mum, I'm going to the bike park. Mum, I'm going to the skate park. Mum, if you need me, I'm behind the pool. How do I take that away from her?", she asked. "How do I tell my daughter, I'm sorry honey, your favourite place to play is now a parking lot?"

Discussion with Council

The delegation speakers engaged in a lengthy exchange with members of Council (the presentations and subsequent discussion ran to 45 minutes) addressing specific objections to the current plan and possible alternative sites for the curling rink and arena. The views expressed by various Councillors suggested a broad range of positions on the proposed curling rink site and indicated a degree of flexibility regarding the final decision on the issue.

"One of the reasons I pushed to have the spray park there was because of the nature of [the location]" said Councillor Lorne Jackson, stating that from his personal perspective the delegation speakers were preaching to the choir. "I do not envision another huge building in there encroaching on the spray park." he said, later adding "You can put a building anywhere."

The question of the future construction of a new hockey arena arose at several points in the discussion. "With regard to a new arena, it was my understanding that a new arena would be basically on the footprint of the old arena", said Jackson. "Maybe a bit longer and a bit wider."

Councillor Mark Barber questioned each of the delegation speakers on their views about relocating those facilities from the downtown core. "Would you be okay if the curling club moves to an outskirts location, and if the arena were to follow in ten to fifteen years in the same location?", he asked.

Rigaux provided one of the more complete responses. "Personally, yes. I go to the hockey tournaments here. And when I'm at the hockey tournaments, I don't leave that building", she said, later adding "The parents I see coming into the community for those tournaments never leave that building until they go to their hotel room or go out for supper. You don't see them on our main street."

Green spoke briefly to the question of the effects on local business. "I know you are being lobbied by business about the value of these facilities being downtown", she said, "But I want to remind everybody of the value of park space downtown" explaining that the complex of pool, spray park and other amenities, set in an attractive open green area, would draw tourists with families. "Downtown business should recognize the value of people coming into the community to do that."

Mayor Don Anderberg offered fairly extensive remarks summarizing the pros and cons of the proposed site and the factors involved in its selection. "There are a lot people that we've heard from [...] that wanted [the curling rink] in the downtown core", he said, going on to explain the advantages of retaining the rink in a central location. "That facility is accessed virtually every day of the week by young people [...] and they actually walk from Matthew Halton and Saint Michael's"

"The other thing we're really short of is community space", said Anderberg, explaining the potential for the proposed rink structure to be used for alternate purposes through the summer months. "If this building is designed properly you could have all that floor space usable, plus you could have a meeting area with probably a kitchen facility and washrooms", he said. "Where the footprint is, I don't know. But there are upsides to this besides all the downsides."

Anderberg set out the next steps in the project. "We're going to have a facilities meeting on the 18th and going to have an updated drawing, and we'll put that out in the public", he said. "There's elements that are going to change in the design. It may not be satisfying, or you might be surprised."

Anderberg also addressed the constraints currently driving the project timeline, explaining that the Curling Club has applied for a major grant from the provincial Community Facility Enhancement Program. "This is going to become the time issue also, because if they do get the grant, there are conditions, and either you use it or you give it back [...] so we have to decide where this facility is going to end up", he said, concluding "We're trying to do our due diligence and work this through to a satisfying result."

Forthcoming meetings

The Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee will meet at 6:30 pm, Monday, December 18, at Pincher Creek Town Hall. Revised site plan drawings for the proposed curling rink will be presented and reviewed at that time. Interested members of the public are welcome to attend.

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