After a lengthy public consultation process, the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) has released the initial draft of its Leisure Activities Plan (LAP), a guidance document for the implementation of recreational and leisure activities in the municipality.
“Every page has been crafted and virtually discussed throughout the leisure activity committees and staff,” said TBM councillor, Peter Bordignon. “It's not just a document, it's going to be a living document, which means we're going to get some measurable benchmarks as we move along.”
The process of developing the LAP began in March of 2020, where the municipality single-sourced the consultation process to Dunbar and Associates. The consultants built from the town’s most recent LAP, which was created in 2015.
Dunbar and Associates also worked closely with the town’s leisure activities committee, which consisted of one member of council and six members of the public.
Public consultation for the plan consisted of a public survey, 50 stakeholder interviews and three focus group sessions. The public survey was conducted from August to October in 2020 and accrued 733 responses.
“We had a tremendous survey response. The highest response I've had in the seven or eight studies,” said consultant Peter Dunbar.
When ranking satisfaction with town amenities, survey respondents indicated that they are most satisfied with town trails (91%), followed by parks, green space and horticultural features (70%); athletic fields and courts (49%); facilities (45%); and programs (36%).
“What we do know is the survey was quite specific on things that people wanted. There were some pretty common elements across the table,” Dunbar said.
The most requested amenity was an indoor pool (134), followed by access to the Georgian Bay (78), and a fitness centre (75).
“There is strong interest in a pool or pools that could be used year-round. Some suggest a 25-metre pool with lap lanes and a recreation area for fun and lessons. This may be in conjunction with a deep-dive end and dive-tower and an adjacent warm water pool for exercise and physio,” stated Dunbar in his report, adding that there are currently three pools in the area, which should be looked at for partnership opportunities.
“Some believe that if the entire region (Collingwood, Meaford, TBM, Canadian Forces, and others) agreed to share costs, it may be possible to have a 50-metre pool which would attract large meets and competitions. Windsor has a most recent build of a 50-metre pool and operation costs are roughly $1.5 million per year,” he continued.
The almost 400-page draft document includes trend research, interview and survey summaries, insights into the town’s changing demographics, as well as an inventory of all municipal parks, trails and facilities.
The draft also includes numerous recommendations that have been provided from town staff, the committee and the consulting firm.
The consulting firm has recommended the municipality investigate the creation of:
The consulting firm also noted several internal actions the municipality could undertake to improve and build on its facilities and recreational offerings, which include:
Dunbar and Associates is also recommending that the town move ahead with the planning process for a multi-use facility by creating a financial business model, forming an advisory committee, tendering a feasibility study and applying for government funding opportunities.
Seventy-eight per cent of survey respondents say they are in favour of the town exploring the creation of a multi-purpose facility, with their top priorities for the facility being: easy access, a central location and acreage to expand.
The report also identifies possible opportunities for joint-use agreements with neighbouring municipalities.
“Look at ways to work together to offer better access to recreation across the region,” Dunbar stated. “The municipality of Grey Highlands has also confirmed interest regarding reviewing potential partnering, once they proceed with their recreation master planning process.”
The concepts outlined in the LAP will be brought forward as recommendations for council consideration and implementation will be driven through the town’s annual budget process.
“There are some recommendations that are going to be made from this to the official plan review with respect to accumulating more land and some other items where I believe it will help us create that additional capacity,” added Ryan Gibbons, director of community services for TBM.
At a recent committee of the whole meeting, TBM council members carried a motion to receive the report and consider the recommendations listed in the summary in future budget processes.
The motion also included creating a budget to survey all waterfront properties that do not have current surveys in 2022; addressing all encroachments on town-owned waterfront properties, and conducting a multi-use community hub facility study to be funded with 2021 budget allocations.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca