Ponoka could have a brand new, integrated recreation and cultural facility within 10 to 12 years, if the ideas generated during a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Kinsmen Community Center could be transformed into meaningful action without delay.
In what Mayor Rick Bonnett described as “the first of many similar events,” some 60 members of the community, representing various interest groups from grandparents to Stampeders management, were joined by an almost full line-up of the town council and a few county councillors to discuss one of the hottest topics of the recent municipal election campaign: how to revive the recreation scene in Ponoka.
After a welcoming speech by the mayor, Wes Amendt, the Community Services Director of the town appealed to the participants to discuss their ideas with the individuals seated at their table to report to the general meeting after about 45 minutes.
After each table reported on their conclusions, it looked like there was strong convergence of views on how to proceed.
Some of the conclusions unanimously supported by the participants included the premise that recreation was an indispensable part of the development of local economy and building a stronger community; that the Ponoka Stampede Association should become a partner in the endeavour and give back to the community when so many in the community volunteer for the organization of the stampede.
Many of the participants agreed that there was room for fundraising through corporate sponsorships, user fees and raising of taxes, with a majority of participants agreeing that Ponoka residents were under-taxed.
Participants also supported the idea that the county should also be a strong partner in the process as the new recreation facilities would benefit a much larger area than the town itself.
Town of Ponoka administration was urged to hire staff and take control of how programs and services should be provided to the community by reducing reliance on volunteerism. One particular area where town administration was found to be weak was communications and events management.
With regard to the form, shape and location of a possible new facility, the views and ideas appeared a little more divergent as to whether the new complex should include meeting halls, a library, a theatre and what kind of facilities could be included from a gym for basketball, volleyball and lacrosse to an indoor soccer arena.
Modernization of the current hockey rink and the swimming pool was also a commonly discussed theme but there were not any clear-cut conclusions on the way to proceed.
On the ball diamonds near the hockey arena, however, there was general agreement that they were underutilized and the location could be much more productively used for other purposes.
Participants were also strongly in agreement that there was a need for developing facilities for soccer as a sport gaining a lot of popularity among youth.
The community survey
Amendt informed the participants that a survey had been prepared to allow the community to give their feedback to the town management and that the survey would be uploaded on the town website within a matter of days.
He added that those who did not have access to Internet could use the library or pick up the hard copy of the survey from the town office to respond to the questions contained therein.
Community building video
Mayor Bonnett, in closing the gathering, appealed to all participants and to all community members to make use of an opportunity that Ponoka was selected to benefit from. He called on all those interested residents to spend a few hours of their time to watch videos online as part of this program in order to contribute to the strengthening of the Ponoka community.
He said he had only watched the video over the last three weeks and that he had already benefitted a lot from the experience.
Interested community members can access the video through the link on the town website or through http://www.viddler.com/v/4550d09e.