Many residents joined in on the conversation of recreation facilities during the town's recreation open house Monday

Many residents joined in on the conversation of recreation facilities during the town's recreation open house Monday

Strong local interest in recreation open house

Residents showed strong interest in Ponoka’s recreation open house with concept plans for the future of recreation in town.

Residents showed strong interest in the Town of Ponoka’s recreation open house that showed concept plans for the future of recreation in town.

The plan, which has three phases, was presented to residents Monday, Feb. 1 at the Hudson Green Nature and Activity Centre, with some new changes that had members of the Ponoka swim clubs pleased.

Kathy McTaggart, president of the Gators Swim Club was pleased to see designers having increased the proposed three swim lanes to six for the aqua centrel. Seeing that the leisure pool and lane pool are separate is another part of the concept she was pleased with.

“I really like that we were able to give feedback and that it was listened to,” said McTaggart.

The biggest hurdle in the first phase, and probably in all the phases, is the cost. The new aqua centre is the most urgent with construction planned for completion by 2019. The swim clubs were asked about their commitment to the project from a finanncial standpoint and McTaggart said the club is behind the project.

Paying or contributing to the construction is one area she is unsure of how they can commit.

For designer Evan Goldstrom of McElhanney Consulting, the firm hired to develop a recreation and culture master plan, the concepts give residents a chance to speak up and have their voices heard.

The recreation concept is based on the current Culture and Recreation Complex and is also the biggest portion of the culture master plan, said Goldstrom.

The second and third phases bring a new arena to the south side of the current building as well as an indoor skate park and other indoor activities. Goldstrom said the racquetball courts on the southwest side of the building will remain part of the recreation inventory in the community.

Converting the current arena is the final phase of the project. Goldstrom has heard from many attendees about interest in water exercise programs. “It’s great for aqua-size…it can be programmed in a bunch of different ways.”

Architect Steven Bushnell said the approach is exactly that, a first concept for residents to provide feedback and ask questions.

“It was felt that the existing arena, as a physical plan was in pretty good shape,” said Bushnell. “And had the opportunity to be expanded.”

Being along the edge of Highway 53 also provides an opportunity for the building to become a landmark of the community. This is why the concept sets up a viewing galleria for residents that can be seen from the road, as well as the new aquatic centre and the new arena, explained Bushnell.

There appeared to be some positive feedback from residents on the concept with some providing thoughts on how else the galleria space could be used.

“It actually creates a sense of presence,” said Bushnell.

There were also representatives from Alberta Health Services (AHS) to provide thoughts and guidance on how the building could promote a healthy lifestyle.

Jillian Risto, community health promotion facilitator said the long range planning of the recreation master plan will bring future benefits to Ponoka’s children. She added the new leisure pool in Wetaskiwin brings many families together and she was pleased to see Ponoka has that in the works.

Eating more healthy is becoming a profitable business, added Mervin Leibel, public health dietitian with AHS. He provides guidance and advice on the types of foods that are ideal for an arena.

“It doesn’t make sense to promote unhealthy food,” said Leibel.

Throughout the evening residents dropped in to see the concepts and hear from town planners.