Wetaskiwin Recreation Plan to Wait till Fall

Pipestone Flyer



The City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin will have a Recreation Master Plan (RMP) but you will  have to wait until late fall or winter of 2012 to see what it is. The City of Wetaskiwin Recreation Board, Mayor Bill Elliott and Aldermen Patricia McQuarrie and Glenn Ruecker attended a visioning session led by RC Strategies consultants Mike Roma and Rob Parks.  RC Strategies has an established reputation for leading this process by working on a dozen or more similar projects at any given time. They lend that knowledge and experience to the City of Wetaskiwin Recreation Board and Council. The County of Wetaskiwin provides operational and capital cost sharing for City recreation facilities. However, they were unable to attend the visioning session due to conflicting schedules.

Although an unusual procedure, after some convincing, a reporter from the Pipestone Flyer and Wetaskiwin Times were invited to attend the session. Ordinarily reporters are not invited to visioning sessions because as they were advised the information presented is interim and could change before all the data is collected and presented, as information, to City Council. 

The working group was presented with an outline of findings to date and asked to provide additional inputThe final report as Mike Roma explained, will be “a tool that will guide regional Councils and the Recreation Department in addressing the future recreation needs, development, re-development and enhancement of all recreation services, programs, and facilities in Wetaskiwin”.  Since this is a going-forward Report, the new Aquatic Centre was not included in the data collection process.

The 5 – 10 year, long range planning process carries a great deal of importance to the tax payer. RC Strategies reported, “On a per capita basis the City spends $288 on recreation & culture compared with $322-$507 for comparable communities (Camrose, Lacombe, Leduc, Ponoka)”.   But it’s a case of the half empty, half full. Although Wetaskiwin is spending less per capita than similar communities, it has a huge inventory of recreation facilities and programs the tax payer is supporting. When completed the Report will provide, “a strategic and directional guide for policy development, decision making, and implementation to ensure sustainability to meet current and future community recreational needs / interests within 5 and 10 year capital planning horizon.”   The report will provide important long range predictions for major recreation facility upgrading and replacement needs. 

Some key points presented:

– Wetaskiwin acts as a service centre for a broader region.

– The City and County are both experiencing growth.

– City averaging 1.4% annually from ‘06-’11; the County 0.66%.

– 2025 population projections range from 14,300-16,900 for City and for the County 10,900-12,500.

– City’s Strategic Plan and MDP recognize the value of and need for continued investment in recreation services (maintain existing and develop new).

– City provides services through its recreation department (Primarily responsible for provision of facilities and liaison with community organizations although some direct programming occurs).

– Innumerable volunteer community organizations that deliver community programming.

– Some partnerships in the provision of facilities (some funding support for development) i.e. outdoor rink.

– The City offers some programming but not-for-profit community organizations deliver the majority: gymnastics club, minor ball, minor hockey, mixed slo-pitch, roller derby, etc.

– The City also provides some support for local delivery groups such as grant application assistance, etc.

Trends in delivery 

– Partnering in the provision of recreation services.

– Volunteer organizations are experiencing difficulties with recruitment and retention.

– Multi-use and multi-purpose space captures efficiencies, serves as a community hub, and provides “cross – exposure” to a variety of activities.

– Provincial and Federal support for recreation is not growing in lockstep with requirements yet policy and political will is indicating support for “quality of life” (i.e. Active Alberta Policy, CS4L, national recreation agenda, etc.).

Trends in participation

– Increased interest in unstructured/spontaneous activities and individual pursuits (continued interest in team sports and structured activities).

– Children (and all ages groups) are not participating in physical activity to the degree they should be.

– Parental involvement is important for children’s participation in sports.

– Children (and all age groups) are not spending enough time outdoors.

– Sport organizations and municipalities are trying to find a way to best implement the Long Term Athlete Development Plan.

The 1388 household surveys returned provided a 13% response rate;    +/- 2.6% 19/20. RC Strategies is using a mix of quantitative and qualitative research data to identify statistically viable trends and patterns that will enable them  to make recommendations in the  final report. The Household survey is only one source of data and cannot be used to make any final recommendations or decisions at this time. However in the interim, the following are a few of the findings of this survey:

– 95% agreed that recreation & leisure is important to their quality of life.

– Barriers to participation – too busy (36%), better opportunities elsewhere (27%), unaware (25%), poor facilities (22%).

– 58% satisfied with availability of recreation opportunities and services within the region; 21% unsure.

– 61% said there is a need for new / upgraded facilities in the Wetaskiwin area.

– Indoor facility priorities: Fitness / wellness facilities; walking / running track; gymnasium space; child playgrounds, field facilities.

– Outdoor facility priorities: Spray park; picnic areas; non-motorized trails; campgrounds; amphitheatre / event space; playgrounds; open spaces.

– 62% would be willing to pay an increase in annual property taxes to ensure community recreation and leisure needs are better met.

– 75% of the Stakeholder group would be willing to pay additional user fees (survey)

– Barriers to household participation – too busy (36%), better opportunities elsewhere (27%), unaware (25%), poor facilities (22%).

– 58% of households are satisfied with availability of recreation opportunities and services within the region; 21% unsure.

– 61% of households, 79% of groups and 84% of students said there is a need for new / upgraded facilities in the Wetaskiwin area.

– 95% of households agreed that recreation & leisure is important to their quality of life.

– Barriers to participation – too busy (36%), better opportunities elsewhere (27%), unaware (25%), poor facilities (22%).

– 58% of households are satisfied with availability of recreation opportunities and services within the region; 21% unsure.

– getting children more active, getting connected with nature and the Long Term Athlete Development Plan are all program priorities that need to be addressed.

Facility Assessments (physical)

RC Strategies provided an assessment of some of the existing recreational facilities.

– Arena 2 slab, perhaps ice plant will require investment soon (other areas of concern: washroom / change room finishes, insulation in some exterior walls, barrier free provisions).

– Drill hall – renovations would make it more usable for gymnasium type space (ceiling height; gymnasium curtains).

– Trails – crossing points, enhanced loops, furniture, ensure surfaces are in good repair and appropriate for use.

– Ball diamonds – one lost due to new aquatic centre development. 

– Rectangular fields – continued maintenance and additional.

– Open spaces – Water Tower Park and Diamond Jubilee Park warrant enhancement. 

– Playground – one lost due to new aquatic centre development. 

The survey results suggested some preferred indoor and outdoor recreation activities.

Community priorities for 

indoor recreation

1. Indoor field

2. Gymnasium space

3. Walking / running track

4. Fitness / wellness

5. Ice arena facilities

6. Indoor child playgrounds

7. Performing arts / show spaces

8. Library

9. Indoor climbing wall

10. Community hall / banquet facilities

Community priorities for 

outdoor recreation 

1. Open spaces

2. Non-motorized trails

3. Sports fields

4. Water spray parks

5. Dog off leash areas

6. Child playgrounds

7. Picnic areas

8. Ball diamonds

9. BMX bike parks

10. Outdoor swimming pools

The final report from RC Strategies will provide recommendations on Project planning prioritization such as:

– Who should be responsible for assessing priorities? (consultants, Council, advisory board, administration, etc…).

– In relation to the community priorities identified, should the region develop or enhance facilities based solely on the elements of the needs assessment report?

– What other criteria should be considered?

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