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Potential Canmore recreation needs study would look at future needs for community

“It’s about recreation facilities needed to be provided to the public,”
Canmore Eagles Tavyn Schlant battles with a Camrose Kodiaks player for possession of a loose puck duting the game at the Canmore Recreation Centre on Friday (Nov. 10). RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – A long-term look at potential future recreation needs for Canmore could soon be in the cards.

The Town’s finance committee recommended council approve a recreation facility feasibility study for $200,000, which would come from operating and general capital reserve.

The potential council approval would also come with cancelling the long-range facility needs report that had been approved for $50,000 last year, but has yet to start work.

Town staff outlined the need for the long-term recreation feasibility project with it having a revised scope that would include the objectives of the long-range facility needs report as well as looking into the long-term recreation needs of the community as Canmore continues to grow.

“It’s about recreation facilities needed to be provided to the public,” said Scott McKay, general manager of municipal services.

Whitney Smithers, the Town’s general manager of municipal infrastructure highlighted it was important to get not only a long-term forecast for recreation but also how it would be implemented into the off-site levies process.

The off-site levy process allows municipalities and developers to determine who pays for what when it comes to infrastructure costs. The process determines whether certain projects are due to growth or asset replacement, with the latter’s funding coming from municipal taxpayers and the former a split.

“If we’re going to be saying ‘we need new facilities and they’re leviable because they’re related to growth’ it needs to be a fairly rigorous investigation that will give us an estimated value we can put into the model,” she said. “We weren’t going to get that from the project that we’ve cancelled.”

Coun. Tanya Foubert said having a long-term idea of recreation needs would assist both council in decision-making and Town staff in forecasting future needs, particularly in helping “capital planning as well as asset planning and management.”

She added with Canmore, the Town of Banff and MD of Bighorn all having land constraints, it would be important to look at the viability of undertaking a regional approach.

The Town of Canmore and the MD of Bighorn have an inter-municipal framework, but Bighorn council approved a revision to its recreation and community support services master plan earlier this year to identify the recreation needs of its residents.

Canmore’s recreation master plan also speaks to collaboration with regional partners, Town CAO Sally Caudill said, but the long-term project would help see if “we need something like this to think about what the next project might be and be able to begin conversations around the off-site levy.”

McKay said there’s a “high use from outside the community” of Canmore’s recreation facilities, but the recreation feasibility study and analyzing the residency of users would be part of the long-term project.

Caudill noted since the last update to the Municipal Government Act, it’s the first time municipalities can include recreation facilities into off-site levies.

As Canmore continues to grow, the long-term recreation needs are essential for planning and forecasting potential demand. Between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, Canmore council approved three area structure plans (ASPs) that will significantly grow the community over the next 30 years.

The Three Sisters Village area structure plan (ASP) has about 40 per cent of the land dedicated to open space, parks and recreational space. The plan outlines between two to three hectares for indoor recreation, with the purpose of the municipal reserve land being a recreation centre or fieldhouse.

The Smith Creek ASP has 25 to 30 per cent of the plan dedicated to open space, while nothing specific for recreation facilities is dedicated the ASP states it’s encouraged in the industrial district. The Palliser Trail ASP has open space and recreation use outlined at a high level, but not specific future uses.

The Quarry Lake jumping platform was also recommended to be closed out after a construction tender came in $110,000 above the $200,000 previously approved budget. While $15,000 had been spent on design, a $100,000 donation for the project will have Town staff work with the donor for a new project.

“We can’t cancel it because some of the design money has been spent. … We are recommending it be closed out and not proceed at it at this point,” Smithers said.

She noted the Town has had conversations with the Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation, with the two working on an agreement with one another that could see the foundation take over capital improvements.

If approved by council, the recreation feasibility study would draw $95,000 from general capital reserve and $105,000 from operating.

The study will have three stages for a potential new recreation facility and if deemed necessary, would be included in a future off-site levy.

The project summary stated the 2016 Recreation Master Plan had an indoor walking and running track as the highest for indoor amenities. The second was a multi-purpose indoor fieldhouse, fitness and wellness centre and indoor playgrounds.

“Fortunately, all these amenities could be co-located within one facility if enough developable land was identified. Other indoor amenities could also be considered, such as youth space, gymnasium spaces, indoor courts, and likely other amenities. However, appropriate land for this type of large facility may be difficult to find,” stated the project summary.
“Multiple smaller facilities may be more achievable and aligned with community needs beyond indoor recreation. Also given the constraints within the community, co-locating these with other potential needs should be considered, such as policing, public works operations, and community social development spaces. Some land will likely be made available within the Three Sisters area, which will likely set the parameters for sighting the project.”

A cost estimate for needs has to be determined and involves multiple steps such as identifying preliminary needs, a needs assessment and a feasibility analysis.

The summary highlighted each of the three would need to pass criteria and approval before moving forward. It further added if construction were approved, it would be “in the 10’s of millions of dollars” and annual operational costs would be between $1 million to $3 million a year. Revenue offsets operations costs between 40 per cent and 75 per cent.

“Recreation facilities have significant impacts, such as high initial capital cost, ongoing operating costs, and resource implications to multiple other departments. As such, these initial planning steps are critical to effectively rationalize the project in the context of many other factors,” the project summary stated.

“If the information gathered justifies the concept, then this project can proceed to implementation. This would be a separate capital project that includes the design and construction of the project assuming the project is on sited onto municipally owned lands. If not, land acquisition would be required.”

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