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Recreation is the biggest ask from Squamish residents

Municipal staff present locals' comments from the draft budget feedback process.
Pickleball courts were a popular request among residents that gave budget feedback.

During this year’s municipal budget feedback process, recreational facilities and programming were top of mind for much of the public.

The findings, presented on Dec. 6 to council, were the results of surveys, online feedback and public information meetings, District staff said.

Some of the engagement channels included an online budget survey that was open from Aug. 14 to Sept. 12. This questionnaire drew 194 responses.

There was also activity on the Let’s Talk Squamish page, which drew 2,200 views and 31 commenters. People were also allowed to explore an online budget tool that listed the budget line items.

“There were a couple themes or a few themes that came up across all of the different engagement channels that we had open. So … the main one being investment in recreation facilities,” said Samuel Fordham, a public engagement specialist with the municipality.

“In the survey, this was identified as one of the most important areas that respondents would like to see receive funding in the 2023 to 2027 financial plan. It was also one of the most common answers when we asked if you could increase funding for one project or initiative in 2023.”

Aside from the survey, the need for investment in recreational facilities was brought up across a lot of the municipality’s other engagement tools as well, Fordham said.

Pickleball courts were another big ask, he noted.

“This again received a lot of responses to the [question:] if you could increase funding for one project or initiative in 2023, what would it be?” Fordham said.

Roughly half the respondents in the survey supported using community amenity contributions to fund the new pickleball courts. Community amenity contributions, or CACs, are funds that developers pay during rezoning applications to help pay for recreation or public art projects in the municipality. There will be $370,000 spent in 2023 for pickleball courts via CACs.

A boat launch was another commonly requested item, Fordham said. There were also recurring requests for improved active transportation.

A splash park was another thing on the public’s wish list. There is $100,000 set aside in 2023 for a playground and splash park in Brennan Park. The project’s total cost is expected to add up to $1.8 million, which will be paid for by CACs. The draft budget predicts it will be built over two years.

Beyond the budget, Fordham said, affordable housing was top of mind for the community. He also added that there was concern about the Hilltop House hockey time allocation, as seniors have been struggling to find ice time that suits their schedule.

Coun. Andrew Hamilton wondered if any of the suggestions had prompted changes in the budget.

Staff said that was not the case.

“For the most part, everything that we’ve been hearing along the way has been incorporated or will have been addressed throughout the budget process,” said chief financial officer Heather Boxrud. “So there haven’t been any changes that we’re presenting today.”

Coun. Jenna Stoner noted that it’s up to councillors to propose motions to change the budget if they feel there’s a need. It’s not up to staff to make changes unless there’s something very critical.

There were no motions regarding budget changes this meeting. It will still have to go through the standard three readings and adoption in the coming weeks.

At the end of the public portion of the meeting, all on council voted to receive the report that was given by staff.

However, there was a motion to ask staff to make a presentation to council about the current active transportation plan. It’s expected elected officials will have questions about improving active winter transportation during that meeting.

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