Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clearing Pelham’s Recreational “Log Jam”

As you know, the provision of recreational and cultural services in Pelham was at a “log-jam” for many, many years. There were numerous reports suggesting the need of and expressing the desire for new recreational facilities. Previous Councils and special committees argued about the issues – we need / don’t need a twin pad, an indoor pool, fitness facilities, a walking track, a rock-climbing wall, etc. – but we couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

So, how did the current Council break the “log jam” and actually move forward? How do we now know what the community wants and needs, and what we can afford?

In the summer of 2012, Council directed our new CAO to recommend strategies to make Pelham more innovate in our provision of services. After researching several options, the Town’s Senior Staff introduced Council to a “creative problem solving” process taught by McMaster University professor Dr. Min Basadur.

To see if the process worked Council tested it on our hardest community problems – the questions about recreational and cultural services in Pelham and what to “do” with lands the Town purchased in 2005.

The process helped Council clarify our thinking and agree on the main, interconnected challenges:
1. How might we best develop the Town-owned-lands in East Fonthill (32 acres at Regional Road 20 and Rice Road) and in conjunction with other property-owner groups?
2. How might we define the recreational and cultural services the Town needs now and into the future?
3. How might we stay focused on deciding what to do with Town facilities and those Town-owned-lands?

Once we agreed upon our challenges and clearly defined them, the process helped us to start solving these community problems.

For example, after hiring a firm to develop a market analysis and business case study, we now know what the community needs, wants, and what folks are willing to pay for recreational services (#2). (For the results and more information, please click here.)

And, by specifically working together with other property-owner groups (#1), we laid the groundwork to sell Town-owned lands for the new Medical Centre, new retirement home, and to the development of the new Wellspring Niagara cancer support centre, and other potential developments.

That’s how the “creative problem solving” process allowed Council to break the “log jam” on our most important community challenge – the provision of recreational and cultural services in Pelham.