Public input soon for study of TBM, Collingwood recreation/library facilities

Residents of The Blue Mountains and Collingwood will soon have the opportunity to express their thoughts about recreation and library services in their communities.

While the end is not necessarily a joint build, the two municipalities are currently joined for a feasibility study. Both councils heard from the project consultants, Colliers Project Leaders, today (June 24) as work gets underway for the study.

Earlier this year, The Blue Mountains and Collingwood announced they were joining together to study the possibility of a joint recreation facility to serve both communities, with the project involving both public library boards as well.

At the June 24 council meetings, TBM first, then Collingwood this afternoon, Dean Plater, the project lead, explained the firm's role in helping municipalities with "pre-project due diligence." And gave an overview of what to expect over the next year.

Colliers is planning a number of public engagement initiatives to gather data from residents and user groups about recreation needs and desires in the two communities.

These include: interviews, workshops, open houses, town hall meetings, social media activity and surveys.

“We’re interested in hearing from as many people as we can,” said Kate Graham, consultation lead for Colliers. “I think it’s really exciting you’re exploring this together.”

Colliers stressed that they are in the information gathering phase at this point in the project and will be requesting one-on-one interviews with members of council to get their thoughts as the consultation process starts. Part of the process will be to engage the public to gather demographic information to better inform the data they are collecting on the project.

The overall project will include:

  • Analysis of market and existing conditions, which includes looking at the town-owned land available and what facilities currently exist.

  • Analysis of user needs.

  • Facility benchmarking, which involves looking at what's been developed already across Ontario, what worked well, how much it costs, and what money and staff are needed to operate the facilities.

  • Location analysis, which is preliminary and involves looking at what parcels of land might be available in each community.

  • Financing options, including what grants are available from upper levels of government for the project.

  • Explore governance models of other similar projects where more than one municipality came together and how it worked and continues to work.

“We’re trying to determine the overall feasibility of the project,” said later.

Collingwood councillors expressed concern that there was a perception in the community that the joint study confirms there will be a joint building.

"I think council was really very, very clear in its direction when we did approve the feasibility study that, in the end, [a joint build] might be an outcome, but it was not the end point for us to work through all of this public consultation to get a joint build," said Collingwood Coun. Kathy Jeffery.

Collingwood Coun. Chris Potts echoed Jeffery's concerns, saying messaging would be key in moving forward with the study.

Plater said it wasn't Colliers' intention to imply the joint study would automatically lead to a joint build.

"We're very much working from a blank piece of paper without any preconceived ideas or concepts," said Plater. "Ultimately, when we get down to the end of this, it could be a single facility, it could be multiple facilities, it could be in one location and it could be at many locations."

Collingwood and The Blue Mountains councils received the consultant's presentation on the matter. TBM council also received a staff report.

- With files from Erika Engel

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,