The City of Salmon Arm should be making plans sooner than later to renovate or replace the SASCU Recreation Centre and swimming pool.
This is one of the key recommendations in Salmon Arm’s recently completed Parks and Recreation Master Plan, accepted in principle last week by city council.
The plan – a “strategic framework to guide future recreation and parks decisions over the next 10 to 20 years” – was prepared by Lees+Associates Landscape and Architect Planners, and summarized by Erik Lees in a presentation to council.
A result of “one of the most rigorous survey, consultation and engagement processes,” the plan identifies swimming and walking as the most popular forms of recreation and physical activity in the community, along with hiking, cycling, skiing, water sports such as kayaking and running, with swimming, soccer and hockey being the most popular activities for children.
The plan states that while the city faces many challenges,” perhaps the most crucial need is to undertake a substantial renovation or replacement of the rec centre and pool, and the development of a plan for either is identified as a short-term priority, with an expected capital expense of $2 to $10 million.
Asked for his recommendation between reno and replacement, Lees said that if money wasn’t an issue, it would be the latter.
“The difficulty of renovation is, as you all know, when renovating an old house, sometimes it’s good money after bad – but sometimes you don’t have enough money to build a new house,” said Lees. “So that will be this and future councils’ conundrum in moving forward.
“But the technology for swimming pools has changed radically, the expectation for swimming pools and recreation facilities is increasing, it seems, with every year that I’m in this business. And you’ve got a very active, very engaged community here. Two different swim clubs for example.
“So whether or not the existing facility can be retrofitted to meet the community’s – even the community’s middle-term needs – is in my mind a really big question mark.”
The plan also identifies as a short-term priority the need for a long-range facility maintenance management agreement and life-cycle replacement plan for the Shaw Centre.
It’s noted the centre is in good condition, though there is a desire for a third sheet of ice not recommended in the master plan.
The plan also touches on the SASCU Indoor Memorial Sports Complex, noting the lifespan of the facility is limited, though replacement would require a strong business case as, communities the size of Salmon Arm are “rarely able to sustain the level of use” generally required to justify the cost.
All of Salmon Arm’s parks are identified in the plan, with recommendations for each. Regarding waterfront parks, Lees said prioritizing public access and usage needs to be a council priority in the coming years. The plan recommends improved connections between Peter Jannink Park and Marine Park, which could be linked to Fletcher Park and the Ross Street Plaza.
Klahani Park is targeted in the plan as a potential recreation hub. The long-term vision for Klahani outlined in the plan includes potential for a an outdoor amphitheatre, a four-diamond ballpark/tournament facility and destination bike skills park with upgrades to the existing sport courts and playground.
Coun. Alan Harrison spoke to a number of points in the plan that piqued his interest, including programming, which he noted needs to be more flexible, so that people can drop in and do things without having to sign up for long periods.
He also appreciated a point made about children not interacting with their natural environment as much and not nearly as much as they used to. Regarding the rec centre and pool replacement, Harrison noted the city recently received grant money that allowed a “bit of a Band-Aid” for mechanical works at the pool.
“And so, I think it is something the community has to think about over the next five years,” said Harrison. “After that, what do we want to do, because we’re going to have to do one of the two if we want to continue to swim indoors.”
Regarding how the city would go about doing all the plan recommends, Lees emphasized the need for partnerships with local community groups and, Okanagan College and government bodies.
“What we’re saying here is staff doesn’t have to do it all. You don’t have enough staff to do it all. You don’t have enough budget to do it all yourself,” said Lees. “But in partnership, and co-ordinating with community groups, that will be one of the keys to success.”
The Parks and Recreation Master Plan can be viewed at http://www.salmonarm.ca/index.aspx?NID=288.