Communication is lacking between the town and recreation groups according to a recent report presented to councillors. Because of that, opportunities are being missed to improve recreation experiences in town.
The report was presented May 14 by the Ponoka Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) to give an independent perspective of recreational buildings in Ponoka, said chairman Tim Rowland. The economic development committee organized PRAC in June 2011 to survey users and provide input to councillors after their findings.
The goal was not to undermine town staff but to get outsiders’ perspectives, said Rowland. “We certainly don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”
Seven areas in town were brought to respondents:
• The Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
• The Aquaplex.
• Ball diamonds.
• Kinsmen Community Centre.
• Tennis courts.
• Soccer fields.
Based on the surveys and the PRAC discussion the committee gave 10 recommendations the group feels can improve recreation in Ponoka.
• The largest area of improvement with operations is to improve communication between the director of community services, Wes Amendt, and groups that use the buildings.
“I think the dialogue needs to be opened up (with) face-to-face contact,” suggested Rowland.
He suggests the director meet with groups at least two times a year to get a feel for users’ needs. Those meetings need to be initiated by the director as show of openness to the groups.
Committee member Peter Oakes feels groups do understand some of the dilemmas faced by the town but without discussion there will not be action. “I think they want a voice, a bigger voice…Let us work with you.”
• In 2007 a recreation needs assessment study was conducted and paid for by the town but no action has been taken. PRAC suggests the town should be putting money aside to carry out the projects identified in the study and by the time funding is actually in place the needs of the community may have changed.
“There’s no funding in place to do anything with it,” said Rowland.
Mayor Larry Henkelman feels the assessment did benefit the town because grants were applied for from information provided. The study did get sidetracked to deal with the development of the ag event centre.
Former MLA Ray Prins suggested the grant request be used for the ag centre and other funds would come later. Henkelman was assured more money would be available but it was not forthcoming.
Rowland sympathized with the mayor but asked if money still had been set aside. “Is there anything in the coffers?”
There has been approximately $1.5 million put into Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex to renovations so the savings is rather limited.
• A strategic plan is needed to deal with aging buildings. PRAC suggests a multi-plex is the next generation of recreation buildings for communities.
One of the suggestions by PRAC is to start a project that involves the community. He suggests a legacy wall of some kind for sponsorship. “We’re going to need to source this money from outside sources…There’s creative ways of doing that.”
“It can’t be a general fund,” said committee member Tim Corkery. “It has to be more specific.”
• More co-operation between service clubs, the town and the private sector is needed to assist with capital funding and maintenance of these buildings.
• The director of community services should seek input from user groups and those same groups should be expected to contribute to assist with costs to make improvements.
• The Ponoka Recreation Needs Assessment Study in 2007 identified a desire from respondents for an indoor walking/running track. This should be the first project built when constructing a multi-plex.
• The town needs to put in place a strategic plan and approval process for new recreation projects and community groups should be mandated to follow the plan.
• The parks and the recreation departments should be able to assist one another. The example given was if there is bad weather and there are mowing delays then ball diamonds and soccer fields should take priority over parks and playgrounds.
• Groups wanting to host a sporting event should be able to receive assistance from the director of community services. But recreation buildings should be assessed to see if they are adequate prior to hosting an event.
• Paying for these buildings incurs high capital and operating costs but slow population growth has resulted in a tax base insufficient for fund improvement. The document states, “We are close to a crisis situation if a plan is not (developed) shortly on how the community is going to fund the replacement (of) our community’s two primary recreation facilities.”
Those buildings are the aquaplex and the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
Issues with service
The Scott Seaman’s Outdoor Rink was opened late in 2012 and PRAC was disappointed it did not open earlier. “PRAC feels the children of this community greatly value the outdoor rink and believe it a travesty that this highly-utilized facility did not open earlier in the 2012 season.”
“The biggest thing in hockey is outdoor games,” added Corkery.
The rink can be booked for 10 or 20 per cent of the time and he feels more outdoor tournaments or games would benefit the community. “Right now we’re being told it can’t be booked.”
The other area they saw as an issue is in the maintenance of the aquaplex. Rowland believes maintenance is either being done too late or staff do not have the proper qualifications.
PRAC was thanked by councillors for their work in bringing the issues forward but no decisions were made from the information provided.