After sitting in on the County’s Recreation and Culture Master Plan workshop on Jan. 29, one thing I noticed was that although opinions varied across the room about what amenities should be built where and how, Rocky View County (RVC) residents are passionate people. (See story on page 9).
As I often heard last year at input sessions for the development of the County Plan, RVC’s population is made up of people who’ve lived here their whole lives and wouldn’t dream of another home address to others who moved here recently because of the lifestyle it offers.
While a majority of residents have shown they want the County to remain a rural landscape, growth – not only in population but also available services – is important to keep up with changing times and new demands.
The benefit of recreation services and cultural opportunities in any community is no short list. The obvious advantages include means for families, kids, adults and seniors to be active with indoor and outdoor sports – the foundation for a healthy lifestyle without having to make the commute into a nearby city.
It promotes a sense of community by getting out there and meeting new people.
These amenities also provide outlets for people to learn and to have fun: recreation centres can host community fairs or provide a venue for international celebrations made local or a gathering spot for weddings, anniversaries and celebrations for people in the community.
A good point that was raised by a resident at the workshop is that a recreation centre that serves the surrounding community promotes volunteerism, which is one of the best ways residents can become a part of their community.
A perfect example of this is the Lions Community Hall in Irricana. At least once a month, but often more, I drive out to Irricana for some type of event the community is hosting at that hall – from craft days, to dinner fundraisers, to holiday celebrations and conferences – and each time I see the same volunteers in the background who I’m sure have committed the better part of the last few decades to see events get pulled-off without a hitch.
It’s also a great way for young people to learn the volunteer spirit, to keep them busy and to get them involved.
So, what’s standing in the way? Money. If the County could track down the money tree, I’m sure libraries would be found in every hamlet, ice rinks in areas that are booming and bigger facilities in areas that have already surpassed their capacity.
Because the County Plan has identified a 2.5 to three per cent rate of growth for the region’s population over the next decade – which the majority of residents identified they wanted, a large influx of residential development accompanied by services likely won’t be the way to accomplish more recreation amenities.
And, if residents don’t want to see taxes go up to be able to foot the bill for these new amenities, I think there will have to be a healthy amount of compromise when this master plan comes into action.
To date, I think there has been a lot of good discussion - including workshops that were held with regional facility managers, funding partners and volunteer recreation board representatives on Jan. 28 – but the discussion needs to continue.
I think I’m not alone when I say I look forward to seeing the draft plan that the County and its consultants come up with this fall.