A few early steps have been taken in developing the Town of Ponoka’s Recreation and Culture Master Plan.
McElhanney Consulting, the company hired by the town to put together a plan and the draft, has submitted its version of the draft master plan to town planners. The document highlights the process undertaken to come up with the current draft plan: background review, comparison and community input, inventory assessment, establish goals and priorities, master plan and feasibility preparation and then a final master plan.
Wes Amendt, director of community services for the Town of Ponoka, said planners are consulting with different community groups to find out what their challenges and strengths are, and this document is going to help guide the process. The biggest challenge is balancing wants and needs with what is affordable, says Amendt.
Most recently, the recreation advisory committee met with the two swim clubs in town, the Gators and the Pool Sharks. They provided some feedback against one recommendation to build a new pool with four lanes rather than the five the town currently has.
Amendt said while they did discuss recreation facilities and how a new pool would look, the draft document itself takes a long-term focus not only on recreation and facilities for it, but arts and culture and parks. Feedback from community groups and residents helps outline the needs and wants of the community.
“The recreation master plan is a larger scope document,” said Amendt.
He said the facilities are just one part of the equation.
Ryan Crawford, president of the Sharks said it was a positive and informative meeting, which showed that many communities the size of Ponoka have pools with four lanes. While town planners haven’t made any decisions regarding a pool design, Crawford said the Sharks and Gators reiterated a desire to see a five-lane pool.
“We can’t host a swim meet without five lanes,” said Crawford.
To get to that point, both clubs indicated their support to raise additional funds to increase the lanes. “We’re definitely willing to help,” Crafword stressed.
He added the Gators need for five lanes is greater as the club has more members.
Regarding the actual draft document, input from the community found that residents are interested in a strong path and trail network within Ponoka, strong desire for more arts and culture, a multi-use facility or community hub, upgrades to current facilities, children’s activities, senior programming, additional programming, a new pool and new town hall.
An interesting facility comparison of Ponoka to three other communities with similar populations sizes Bonnyville, population 6,216; Devon, 6,510 and Rocky Mountain House, 6,773, shows that Ponoka does appear to have a fair number of amenities the others don’t.
While Devon does not have a curling rink, Ponoka has one with six sheets, which is one more than Rocky Mountain House and two more than Bonnyville. Bonnyville is the only community besides Ponoka with an indoor swimming pool; while Rocky Mountain House has an indoor leisure pool.
As for indoor fitness buildings, Bonnyville is the only community to own a multi-use building with a variety of recreation, athletic and community services. Also factored into the comparison were community recreation budgets: Ponoka, $2.2 million; Devon, $2.7 million; Rocky Mountain House $3.2 million and Bonnyville $3 million.
One reason Bonnyville’s recreation costs may be less than Rocky Mountain House is due to it being a shared operations with the Municipal District of Bonnyville.
Timelines proposed by McElhanney plan foresees a relatively quick construction of a community activity centre in the summer of 2017. Phase one of a leisure pool construction is proposed to start in 2016 with a grand opening set for September, 2019. Construction work for a new library, arts and culture centre is tentatively set to be completed between four to six years from now, in 2020 to 2022, with an events arena, which expands on the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex set for completion between 2023 and 2025.
The plan to repurpose the arena for other amenities or recreation is set for the same time period. McElhanney proposes a seven or 10-year option for council.
Recommendations include setting governance for the recreation centres, which will help determine how the facilities are run and payed for. It will also set the stage for programming and for an increase in arts and culture in the community.
The draft plan is expected to come to town council for decision on Tuesday, Jan. 12 during a regular meeting.