More than 100 residents young and old filled the Kinsmen Community Centre Tuesday, Sept. 29 to provide feedback on the town’s concept plans for the future.
Speaking on the concept plans was Gary Debney, a consultant with McElhanney Consulting, the firm hired to bring together a recreation and culture master plan that will set the chart for Ponoka for the next 30 years. The number of attendees were so high that there were not enough surveys to hand out to all participants.
Debney, whose mother lives in Ponoka, spoke about the concept plans stating population growth had to be considered in the plans. He estimated growth over the years to be from half a per cent to one per cent growth per year. Ponoka has seen slow growth compared to other communities.
“A community that’s growing like Blackfalds can see 20 per cent growth per year,” suggested Debney.
“Your demographic is going to change from a young to an older population,” he added.
There were some questions about the concepts, which bring community multi-use facilities to the site of the Kinsmen Community Centre and the Drop-in Centre.
Those concepts created some concern with senior residents who use the drop-in centre on a regular basis. They worried their activities would be forgotten if the centre were to be removed.
Drop-in centre treasurer Ulla Thomson spoke against taking down the building that houses the centre. She said there are many people who access the drop-in centre monthly and members like things the way they are. “For us, we need smaller rooms to get to know each other.”
Debney offered that a multi-purpose building would enhance their programs rather than hinder them and will be interwoven into the programming.
He said the goal of the night, and of the concept plans, was to work together as a community. “As a vision we need to get the community around something so that we all agree.”
Residents favour one multi-use building
Debney said the concepts were created using feedback from recent surveys provided to residents.
They would see the re-purposing of the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex to other amenities, including an indoor skate park or BMX park with a new arena with seating of 750 to 1,000 people built off the south side of it. Debney suggests a skate park or BMX park would see more activities for youths.
Resident Bruce Clark suggested an aquaplex and other recreation amenities could be added to the west side of the arena by removing the ball diamonds rather than on the Kinsmen Community Centre site. One thought from Clark was that since there are ball diamonds in Riverside, that space could service a better purpose. Parking and access to the addition is one area that Debney sees could be an issue with this plan, which was not part of his conceptual plan.
Clark feels an arts and culture building could be built on 50 Street near the railway line or where the Kinsmen Community Centre is. In a recent survey designed for residents, Debney said arts and culture is an important part of this plan.
He also created the concepts with the goal to improve on the downtown area of Ponoka by building close to the railway or by the Town Hall site. Some attendees applauded when one person stated that rejuvenating the downtown area is a waste of time and recreation should be put under one roof.
There was a sense that it did not matter to people where the multi-use building was, it did not nesessarily need to be in the downtown core.
Regardless of the future location of the aquaplex and recreation facilities, Debney suggests a leisure pool, along with a lane pool would be a magnet for families.
“This type of facility garners more young families, more activity, more interest, but it’s also more popular with seniors,” said Debney.
One of the challenges for Debney was creating a plan that would give the town the biggest bang for its buck while still being sustainable for taxpayers. Over the next 30 years Debney estimated the overall cost would be $30 million for all the different facilities.
The question of re-purposing buildings came up. Coun. Sandra Lyon suggested that if Debney feels the arena can be re-purposed, then could the same happen to the aquaplex? Debney replied that structurally the aquaplex is limited in life while the arena has a strong foundation. He added that residents will have to make some serious decisions about town facilities over which ones should still be used.
Debney said the most important thing is for residents to come together on the plan. “A vision is only as powerful as the people behind it,” he concluded.