I attended the public unveiling (Oct. 24) of the draft Parks and Rec Master Plan with high hopes. From the outset this plan was to address our community recreation needs in relationship to our status as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. As someone who has long advocated for our district to apply resources to this sector, I felt that we were finally going to put some money behind our slogan.
Admittedly, the consulting firm behind the plan had a tough task ahead of them. The way I see it, the district doesn’t have a coherent vision for what the community wants to be. Our traditional recreation infrastructure is outdated and crumbling. We have a shrinking tax base with resources far short of the need. A nebulous town centre, a community strung out along a tricky piece of geography divided by a highway and, as was evident in the public meeting, a community full of recreationists all passionate about their particular form of recreation.
The biggest obstacle facing the consultant, however, is the nature of outdoor recreation. It does not fit neatly within the concept of recreation that municipalities typically invest in. Putting a new roof on the arena is something easily quantified and acted upon. On the other hand, improving our access to the waterfront, for instance, is complex, multi-jurisdictional and much harder to pin down. The above was clearly evidenced in the way the consultant focused his recommendations on the revitalization of Brennan Park.
I was a bit taken aback by the consultant repeatedly saying that “If we want to be the Outdoor Rec Capital of Canada….”. It is not a matter of “if.” We “are” the outdoor recreation capital! All one has to do is travel to other “outdoor rec” towns in Canada or the States for that matter, and say that you’re from Squamish and you’re greeted with looks of envy. But there is so much more that could be done to make our outdoor recreation more user friendly, more accessible to visitors and, most importantly, so that it has more impact on the economic life of the community.
Three vibrant bike stores in a small town give some inkling as to the potential. We have the opportunity to make small, focussed investments in outdoor recreation access that build on our brand and provide the basis for a new economy in Squamish. The consultant recommended that funds be channeled through volunteer user groups. I couldn’t agree more. The work being done by the Smoke Bluffs Park Advisory Committee and the recent trail maintenance funding managed by SORCA or the Squamish Trails Society’s “Brush Back Brigade” are all excellent examples of cost-effective and efficient ways of putting resources into our outdoor rec infrastructure. I’m not sure we needed a consultant to tell us this.