Callander contemplates parks and recreation master plan

·6 min read

With plans to pass the budget in the upcoming months, Callander’s council called upon municipal staff to provide a parks and recreation master plan to help inform budgetary decisions.

The master plan, presented to council during their December 21 meeting, is intended to help guide future decisions involving parks and recreational facilities in Callander.

The consensus from council was that the municipality has a variety of facilities available to residents and would like to find ways of encouraging the community to use what is already there, rather than spending money to provide more.

Mayor Robb Noon noted that “anything we do above and beyond what we’re currently doing will add more staff time” to do so, which is a “concern” as it will add additional expense to the budget.

Overall, the idea is to improve quality of life in the municipality. In 2019, the municipality conducted a survey entitled ‘My Callander Cares,’ to which residents responded that the “quality of life was satisfactory.”

The municipality realized there was room to improve from “satisfactory.”

Encouraging tourism is also a key goal for the town, as outlined in Callander’s strategic plan. Parks and recreational facilities could play a role in achieving this goal as well.

The plan notes “Callander’s population growth has slowed,” although it is “anticipated to increase by 30 residents annually over the next ten years” which could also inform council’s parks and recreation planning.

Another issue the plan presents is “whether revenue” from municipal facilities is a top priority. Should more emphasis be placed on renting the facilities, or should rates be kept at a minimum to encourage more community use?

Mayor Noon was wary of “going down the path of for-profit” ventures, maintaining lower rates allow community clubs to enjoy the spaces.

He wants to ensure the plans regarding programming and activities hosted by the municipality are designed “not to compete” with private sector endeavours.

The crown jewel of Callander’s recreation facilities is the community centre, which currently hosts various clubs and groups—pickleball, tai-chi, the Brownies, amongst others—at no cost.

One idea within the plan is to offer different activities and clubs throughout the month and sell memberships allowing residents to take part in activities of interest. Revenue earned could be fed back into the building’s upkeep and put toward new equipment.

Educational classes could be added within this model, such as cooking courses or other workshops that may draw community interest.

The facility is also rented out for weddings and other larger events. Within the plan, staff noted “the bar equipment needs to be updated,” and improvements could be made to the sound system.

“New curtains” would also be nice, and these improvements should be considered for future budgets.

Over half of Callander’s population is over the age of 50, so creating more programming for this demographic is also something council needs to contemplate.

Councillor Jordy Carr anticipated that would appear in the master plan, noting the need to foster senior programming and youth programs offer opportunity for “a real conversation about the balance of that.”

The Bill Barber Arena is also highlighted within the report, noting the facility “has room for expansion to become a proper functioning hockey arena,” and “if we developed the arena, we could use it for games and team rental” and could “possibly have a local league” use it regularly.

That plan would “take away time from family skates” and would also require “a scoreboard, additional changerooms, and a proper sound system” all of which would need to be included in the budget.

Opening the canteen in the Orton Room is also suggested in the report. A trial opening was conducted in 2019, “and was successful” amongst residents.

“I’d like to see more things happen there for the community,” councillor Irene Smit said, host a “family skate day where we open the canteen,” she added, “something that says come on out here.”

There is also a canteen at Centennial Park, which is usually open during large community events such as Canada Day and Callander Lights up Christmas.

The report suggests opening it more often to make better use of the facility, or perhaps rent the space to a local restaurant or food truck.

“We’ve got a lot of resources here,” Smit said, although many are “not being utilized, and I think that’s a real shame.”

“Let’s open our doors to the community, make it more welcoming,” she suggested.

As for the Bill Barber Arena in the summer months, the plan suggests it could serve as a suitable venue for day camps, musical performances, outdoor weddings and receptions, and possibly a farmer’s market.

The purpose of Yarlasky Field is also touched upon in the report. “If we can decide what type of field it is, we can advertise it for specific uses,” staff clarify.

As is, the field offers more of an all-around sports experience, but the suggestion is there to narrow its use-value down to one activity.

For example, “if Yarlasky Field is meant to be a baseball field,” staff explain “bases and sand need to be added to this facility to make it a proper functioning baseball field.”

Decisions must be made, and these choices may affect budget discussions.

Also, the future of the South Shore facilities is also up for debate. All of council agreed the facility is underutilized—“rarely used and barely rented”—the report summarizes.

A euchre club rented it once a week throughout 2019, and there were two other rentals that year as well.

Council was encouraged to consider the future uses of the facility and present their ideas to staff at an upcoming meeting.

There is much for council to consider, given the entirety of the municipality’s parks and recreational facilities are on the table.

“We all have great ideas,” regarding how best to weave the future of parks and recreation into the town’s overall strategies concerning economic and population growth, “but it’s just a matter of how much it costs,” Mayor Rob Noon said.

He emphasized the importance of “taking advantage of the municipal assets, and town assets,” that already exist “and take advantage of those opportunities to develop more” value from what the town has.

Council received the report well, and their overall feedback was to have staff present some opportunities that would not burden the upcoming budget but still provide attractive options for residents to take part in local recreational activities.

“Community focused, we can run with that,” explained Ashley Bilodeau, Callander’s municipal director.

There is also talk of creating a survey to gather information from the public, but council will need to finalize that decision at an upcoming meeting.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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