Open houses provide input into parks and trails plan for Powell River

City undertakes exercise to map out strategy for next 15 years

City of Powell River’s parks and trails master plan aims to create a vision for these cherished community assets.

Over the next year, the city is developing a parks and trails master plan, which will identify the community’s needs for the next 15 years. It will help city council and staff make decisions, such as:

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· What kinds of parks and trails does the city need today and in the future?

· Does the city have enough parks and trails?

· Where does the city need new parks and trails?

· What should parks and trails include so they are welcoming for everyone?

The city held two open houses, on November 26 at Dwight Hall and November 27 at Westview Elementary School, to solicit input into the master plan.

Senior planner Daniella Fergusson said the city has just started the process, which will be conducted in three-phases. The first phase, which is occurring now, is “pretty open ended,” where the city and its consultants are listening to what people want to see in parks and trails, as well as biking lanes and sidewalks, and any challenges they are experiencing, according to Fergusson.

She said in the next phase, the city is going to take all of the feedback, along with technical analysis from engineering, planning and parks, recreation and culture departments.

“We don’t have all of the answers and we have limited resources as a city so we want to hear the public’s feedback on which direction we should head in for the future of our parks and trails,” said Fergusson.

There will also be a third phase to the process. A draft plan will be developed, so before the plan is taken to city council around June 2020 for council’s consideration, organizers will be back in front of the public to make sure the process is headed in the right direction and there are no red flags moving forward.

There have been two open houses held to outline the master plan and a survey is also being conducted until December 13. It is available at participatepr.ca

Fergusson said the big thing that has been heard is that people really love and appreciate the parks and trails.

“Powell River is blessed with a large number of natural spaces for people to go to and people appreciate the quality and variety of outdoor spaces,” said Fergusson. “This includes the waterfront, hiking trails, access to the backcountry, access to the Sunshine Coast Trail, sports fields and playgrounds.”

Something that needs to be more fully understood is conflicts, she added. For example, trails are popular with bikers and people walking their dogs, seniors love the trails and so do parents with young children.

“When you put all our different people together on the trail at the same time, bikes and dogs can be a little scary for some people,” said Fergusson. “That kind of conflict in parks and on trails is not something we can solve in this process but we can understand it better and the public can help us come up with ideas of how to help resolve it.”

Another point heard is that there are many great trails. It’s not always clear, especially for people new to town or visiting, where the trailheads are, how difficult the trail is, how long it’s going to take, or if there is a place to park while going into trails. Fergusson said organizers are hearing a lot about signage and wayfinding.

She said she is the day-to-day contact for anyone who wants to provide feedback and will meet with any groups who want to learn more about the project or give feedback to the city, which she can pass along to the consultants. Her email is dfergusson@powellriver.ca.

Residents can also go to participatepr.ca for information on the master plan. Fergusson said the city wants to hear what the public has to say.

Director of parks, recreation and culture Ray Boogaards said the parks and trails master plan is important moving forward. He said it was evident in the city’s Expanded Regional Recreation Initiative Study how important parks and trails are to local residents.

“The master plan will assist us in finding out where the real priorities are,” said Boogaards. “When we look at parks, we know we have a lot of playgrounds and a lot of them are being replaced. We know we have some sports fields. How many sports fields does the public want? It’s important for residents to tell us rather than us guessing what they want.

“The study is important. It gives us that 15-year roll-out with capital costs, priority costs and operating priorities.”

Boogaards said he cannot stress enough the importance of the public having a say.

“Our parks are what people value,” he said. “We’ve heard that a lot.”

Boogaards said with national and provincial parks and recreation associations, connecting people with nature is one of the big pushes right now. It is important for the public to get out in nature, he added.

“How do we keep our citizens healthy and active?” said Boogaards. “How do we become one of the healthiest and most active communities in BC? Our parks, recreation centre and trails are essential.”

 
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