St. Mary’s to develop master plan for recreation

·3 min read

ST. MARY’S – The Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s is seeking a professional consultant to help create its first recreation master plan, a blueprint that will “really help steer us into the future,” said Director of Community Development and Recreation Kerri Penney.

The request for proposals (RFP) was posted to the municipality’s website on Jan. 6, following the unanimous assent of St. Mary’s council both to the plan and to the solicitation for outside planning services. No specific budget for the project was set, but Penney said she has applied to the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage for funding.

“This is such an exciting, positive project for St. Mary’s,” she told The Journal in an interview. “What I’m hoping is that this… recreation master plan will redefine how we provide those services to the municipality [and] really help steer us into the future.”

Noting that the timing for the exercise is ideal, given that “we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she added: “It’s good to maybe take a look at how we deliver some of our services, and ask: Are we on the right track?”

According to the RFP, the municipality wants proposals from “professional firms” to develop a “comprehensive five-year Recreation Master Plan” intended to help guide St. Mary’s recreation staff develop and executive annual work plans. The RFP states that “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the rural nature of the area, the municipality is looking for innovative approaches to community consultation and data collection – specifically, for ways consultant firms can creatively collect data and use technology to connect with residents during the consultation process.”

The successful proponent will conduct a “community facility asset management plan” and assess the current state of recreation and any barriers to participation.

“We’d [want] some innovative new ways to start delivering services,” Penney noted. “How can we put emphasis, for example, on some of the ways that people can be active on their own – self-led recreation opportunities, such as play boxes in communities where we’re providing easy access to equipment, and things like that.”

The consultant will also ascertain different communities’ recreational priorities; create a digital map of local trail systems; and research general rural recreation trends that could be viable in St. Mary’s. “Having strong recreational services is what attracts business owners, families and people relocating to come to our community,” Penney said. “It is linked to economic development; it is a vital part of that whole picture.”

St. Mary’s – which has been a focus of growing outside commercial and property development interest recently – is undergoing its first full-scale municipal planning process in 15 years. Under the circumstances, Penney said, “finding firms [to do this work] who are used to working with rural communities is really important.

In recreation planning, programming models and advising often come from urban areas, she said, “and they just don’t fit into our rural way here. The firm must understand the rural nature of our community, see the benefits and opportunities of that, and work with it.”

The project, once awarded, is expected to take three months to complete (Jan. 31 to Apr. 29). The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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