Squamish needs a new sheet of ice, but not a second rink, states the municipality’s final draft outlining the future of the community’s parks and recreation.
After more than a year of work, three open houses and numerous stakeholder meetings, on Feb. 19 the District of Squamish unveiled its 20-year visioning document for parks and recreation in Squamish.
It’s been a rigorous process of engagement, said Eric Lees, principal of the consulting firm Lees and Associates. Consultants and district staff conducted a 300-resident phone survey, an online questionnaire and accumulated written comments.
The document explores steps to build Brennan Park Recreation Centre into a community hub for indoor and outdoor activity. The centre is in good condition, but it’s aging, Lees warned council at its Committee of the Whole meeting.
Some of its facilities, such as the arena, no longer meet today’s expectations, he said. The guiding plan recommends a phased approached for improvements and creating more multifunctional programming space.
At the top of Brennan Park’s priority list is a fitness gym and new ice sheet. The arena slab should be replaced within three to five years, Lees said. The master plan recommends the old arena be converted into dry floor space.
What the document doesn’t recommend is a second sheet of ice, a request that some ice users hoped to see.
To necessitate a single rink, a community’s population needs to reach 20,000 residents, Lees said. Some B.C. municipalities with 20,000 citizens have two ice arenas, but they’re struggling to keep the doors open, Lees noted.
“We didn’t think a second sheet of ice is needed, not yet,” he said, adding the suggestion can be reviewed within a business plan examining the development of a new ice sheet.
A new rink would extend the months of use from seven to 12 months, noted Tim Hoskin, the district’s director of recreation services.
A key component of the plan is to ensure rec and park infrastructure growth is sustainable, Lees said. As such, he recommended the district require a business-case analysis for major expenditures.
Community collaboration between the municipality and user groups will also keep bills down. The document backs the creation of a Volunteer Leadership Program.
“We need to develop partnership with community organizations in order to meet the lofty goal of being the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada,” Lees said.
The district could save cash and boost current facility use by partnering with the Sea to Sky School District, Lees added. The plan seeks the creation of a joint booking system for school and municipal fields. It also encourages programming and facility use opportunities between the municipality and local universities — Quest and Capilano.
“The last thing we want to do is create more facilities that are a [financial] burden on council,” Lees said.
The document keeps the Squamish Valley Equestrian Association where it currently sits, after members voiced concern over an earlier draft suggestion that the ring be moved adjacent to the Squamish Rod and Gun Club.
Down the road, the community will have to recognize that not everything will fit at Brennan Park, Coun. Doug Race warned. If organizations are forced to move out of necessity, the district will have to play a role in accommodating them, he said.
“There is going to be some difficult decisions,” Race said.
Squamish needs a dog park, Lees said. The district could create dog-friendly areas and trails, he said. Four-legged zones have been a long time coming, Coun. Patricia Heintzman agreed.
Among other highlights, the plan called for a water park, an interruptive paddling route along Squamish’s waterfront, official park status for Brackendale Farmers’ Institute and Smoke Bluffs parks and an improved area for windsurfers and kiteboarders.
The document is a bit like circling toys you want in the Sears catalogue, Coun. Bryan Raiser said. Corporate sponsorships may be one way to find capital to cross some of the items off the list, he noted.
The projects will have to be viewed through the lens of economic development, Coun. Ron Sander agreed.
A lot of work and an “incredible” amount of community consultation went into the master plan, Mayor Rob Kirkham said. The final draft will come back to council on April 2.
“It is the recipe for success,” he said.