Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recreational & Cultural Executive Summary Leads to Action

Last week, I wrote that “…because it’s been discussed and desired for many, many years, Council recently approved the development of a business case for community recreational facilities.”

Some people asked me to identify what prompted these actions and, others, what is intended by them.

In November 2012, Council asked staff to develop an Executive Summary of the recreational and cultural reports that various Councils have received over the years. Why? As part of a creative problem solving educational session, Council identified reasons for such a report:
Council is interested in the best way of developing the Town-owned-lands in East Fonthill (32 acres at Regional Road 20 and Rice Road) in conjunction with other property-owner groups;
Council wants to define the recreational and cultural services the Town needs now and into the future;
Council wants to stay focused on deciding what to do with Town facilities and those Town-owned-lands.

On 3 December 2012, staff presented an outline of the relevant reports from 1990. The brief summarizes four consultant reports – from 1990, 2001, 2008, 2010 – and three staff reports – one from 2000, two from 2010.

The Executive Summary’s conclusion states, “It is clear that there has been considerable study and work conducted in an attempt to determine the recreational and cultural needs of the community. Although details differ (Twin Pad Arena v. Community Centre) it is abundantly clear that since 1990 the community has consistently voiced a need and desire for a new twin pad arena, new pool facilities and a community wellness centre.”

Since I do not have enough room here to summarize the Executive Summary, I encourage you to read the eight-page document yourself; please ask for it from the Town Clerk’s Office or download it by clicking here.

What did Council do after receiving the report? First, Council directed staff to work together with the other landowner developing along Regional Road 20; he owns 42 acres of mostly commercial lands and hopes to begin the first-phases of construction in 2014. Second, while the community “has consistently voiced a need and desire” for recreational and cultural facilities, the Town has yet to test the business case; therefore, Council directed staff to develop a “business case for community recreational facilities.” Finally, since there have been many discussions about the value of the Town-owned lands over the years, Council directed staff to get an appraisal on the property.

You and your neighbours will be invited to be part of further recreation and cultural discussions and decisions for Pelham in the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is Community?

Over the last number of years, Council has concentrated on improving the infrastructure of our Town. Now, we are expanding our focus to include the building of community.

Some of the infrastructure improvements have been multi-million dollar, multi-faceted, and many-month projects – like reconstructing Haist Street, revitalizing Downtown Fonthill, constructing a new Fire Station #2, or replacing all nine playgrounds in Pelham. (Thanks to the Federal and Provincial governments for funding two-thirds of each of these important projects!)

Other improvements – like more than 9 KM of new sidewalks, including around Pelham Town Square or down Regional Road 20 from Station Street to Rice Road – have enhanced walkability throughout the Town.

We have also funded improvements to rural and urban roads and bridges:  Effingham from Pelham Road to Kilman; Church Street from Webber Road to Canboro; Line Avenue; Elizabeth Drive; Station Street north; Shaldan Lane; Chantler Road; Maple Street bridge; Sawmill Road bridge; etc.

We’ve installed +3,200 new, radio-frequency water meters to keep track of water usage and reduce unaccounted water use. We have replaced 7 km of cast iron water mains along roads like Churchill, Peachtree, and Hillcrest.

And, we budgeted for more infrastructure improvements in 2013 – like revitalizing Downtown Fenwick, and reconstructing Port Robinson Road from Pelham Street to Station.

In January, Dean Allison, our MP, announced $158,000 from the Federal Government to match the Town’s funding of improvements to Old Pelham Town Hall, including the historic Ridgeville Cenotaph, and the Pool House at Marlene Stewart Streit Park Swimming Pool.

As I stated during the funding announcement, a community is about more than roads, and pipes in the ground.

Community is about a “sense of place” like experienced in Pelham’s downtowns or beautiful rolling hills. Community is about our joint heritage and histories like with Old Pelham Town Hall and as annunciated in our Heritage Master Plan. Community is about volunteers – and Pelham has so many committed volunteers!

Just like a home is about more than four walls and a roof, community is about people – people coming together, interacting, celebrating, and remembering.

That’s why I am so proud of events like those hosted by Pelham service clubs or like Summerfest or the Riehl Skatepark Aviva Announcement or the Bandshell Concert Series.

That’s why the Town recently reorganized by adding a Recreation, Culture, and Wellness department.

And, finally, because it’s been discussed and desired for many, many years, Council recently approved the development of a business case for community recreational facilities. Council plans to give more attention to the building of community and hopes to finally decide on the future recreational, cultural, and wellness facilities and needs for the Town in 2013.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Location for Riehl Skatepark Decided

On Thursday, February 21, five Staff and I lead 23 members of the community through a creative problem solving process (the Simplexity Thinking System) to determine the preferred location for the Riehl Skatepark.

The working group included Bonita and Ted Riehl; Mariah Bunz; youth and adult skate boarders; a local Aviva Insurance Broker; and representatives from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; Niagara Regional Police; Pelham Youth Soccer Club; Pelham Minor Baseball; Pelham Slopitch; Bandshell Committee; Pelham Tennis Association; and local Service Clubs.

After discussing facts about the skatepark, the working group using maps and post-it notes to suggest 15 potential locations:
1. Harold Black Park - Soccer Field;
2. Arena Park - Multi Purpose Court;
3. Harold Black Park - near Storm Water Detention Pond;
4. Arena Park - south of driveway, east of arena;
5. Centennial Park - ball diamond #3;
6. Marlene Stewart Streit Park - asphalt pad behind pool building;
7. Town owned lands in East Fonthill
8. Peace Park - Adjacent to Professional Arts Building;
9. Glynn A School - near soccer field/Steve Bauer Trail;
10. Marlene Stewart Streit Park - near entrance to John Nemy Trail;
11. Woodstream Park - wooded area;
12. Centennial Park - east of furthest parking lot;
13. Gord Klager Fonthill Lions Park - tennis courts;
14. Arena Park - north of paddle tennis facility;
15. Centennial Park - front passive area at Church Street

With these potential locations in mind, each of three small-groups brainstormed and then short-listed the best criteria to evaluate the locations. The group results were combined, and further “converged” by everyone into seven criteria:
1. Safe access – getting to and from the park, EMS & Police Access, Near Majority of Town Population;
2. Available public washrooms and other infrastructure;
3. Isaac would have approved and it will increase civic pride;
4. Minimal impact on others (park users and neighbours);
5. Highly visible (for police,"eyes on park") and able to be lighted;
6. Enough physical space -minimum 110' x 110' and potential for expansion;
7. Favourable terrain/topography;

Each small group used the seven criteria to evaluate the 15 locations.

The result? Consensus on one location – the soccer field at Harold Black Park.

What will happen to those that currently use this improperly-sized soccer field? While the lights will stay for the Skatepark, Staff and Pelham Soccer have recommended that the Town advance the planned 2014 construction of a new soccer field and parking lot as envisioned in the Centennial Park Master Plan. (This can be paid for by delaying the construction of a “Central Park Building” and lighting Ball Diamond #2.)

Thanks to all who participated in and facilitated the special workshop; you proved the Ghanaian proverb true: “One head does not contain all the wisdom.”

UPDATE: March 4, 2013:
The Committee of the Whole approved the recommendation to construct the Riehl Skatepark at Harold Black Park. This recommendation will go to Council on March 18 for ratification.