Council to be asked to approve Sackville’s new recreation plan

Matt Pryde, manager of recreation programs and events

At its meeting next week, Sackville Town Council is expected to be asked to approve a new, five-year master plan that would set priorities for recreation within town limits.

The 47-page plan outlines a detailed approach to planning for recreation facilities including parks, sports fields, walking trails, the Civic Centre, school gymnasiums and the town’s 18-hole disc golf course.

Matt Pryde, Sackville’s manager of recreation, says that if it’s approved, the master plan would set priorities giving town staff  long-term direction and avoiding the tendency to chase grant money as individual projects pop up.

“This way if we have something on paper that helps us prioritize our long-term vision for recreation, then we have a reason to turn down other opportunities if they don’t fit within our overall vision and scope,” he explains, adding that a recreation master plan can guide decision making.

“That’s the biggest thing for me,” Pryde says, “giving us a little bit of direction so that we know where we should be focusing our work.”

Few new projects

Pryde says the draft master plan focuses on things the town is already doing.

“There’s a lot in the plan, but a lot of it isn’t really new,” he says. “It’s stuff that’s already been looked at — it’s just a lot of ways to prioritize what we’re already doing or look at better ways of doing.”

During a brief presentation at this week’s council meeting, Pryde mentioned a few of the new plan’s highlights:

  • improving connections between the town’s walking trails and its parks
  • exploring the possibility of establishing a park in the old quarry near Mount Allison
  • pursuing development of a fenced-in, off-leash dog park near the downtown
  • establishing privately-run canoe and kayak rentals at Lillas Fawcett Park
  • looking for new groups to use the Civic Centre
  • holding the Sackville Street Chalk Festival every year
  • evaluating development of mountain bike trails near Beech Hill Park and the Crooked Tree/Ogden Loop trail systems

Natural playground being built to replace plastic and metal one at Lillas Fawcett Park is included in the recreation plan. Lifeguard building at rear could be used for canoe and kayak rentals

During an interview later, Pryde acknowledged that some ideas in previous plans are not included in the new one such as setting up a walking track at the Civic Centre, building a pedestrian/bicycle walkway over the highway to connect the TransCanada Trail from the Waterfowl Park to Lillas Fawcett Park and establishing an 800 metre walking distance from any house in town to a park.

In putting the new plan together, town staff solicited the opinions of more than 430 people during two focus group sessions, a public consultation meeting, three online surveys as well as a booth at the Sackville Farmer’s Market.

“Everything that’s in that plan was shaped out of the data that was collected,” Pryde says. “The number of people that we had through the consultation process was quite impressive.”

To read the results of these surveys as outlined in the recreation master plan, click here.

Councillors divided

Councillor Shawn Mesheau

During a six minute discussion, Councillors Bill Evans and Andrew Black expressed strong support for the new recreation master plan, while Councillors Shawn Mesheau and Bruce Phinney voiced their doubts.

Mesheau questioned why half of those included in the surveys were young people, while the draft plan itself acknowledges that most of the town’s population is over 40, with nearly a quarter over 65.

He also referred to the most recent census figures showing a 4.1% decline in the town’s population between 2011 and 2016.

“There’s discussion in that draft about a decrease in population happening,” Mesheau added, “and yet we’re talking about adding to our (recreation) infrastructure.”

He also questioned why the plan talks about a permanent Street Chalk Festival while acknowledging problems in getting people engaged in events that the town is already offering.

Both Mesheau and Phinney called for more public consultation, perhaps a public question-and-answer session that would allow people to determine whether the new plan is heading in the right direction.

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans disagreed. He said staff had done “a really good job of consulting widely” in coming up with the plan.

“If the public provided feedback, we’d have a whole bunch of different opinions that wouldn’t help us,” Evans said. “You provide the general (public) input to start with and then staff brings together a recreation master plan.”

Evans added that he liked how the process was conducted and would support approving the plan when it comes up for a vote next week.

Councillor Black said staff had pulled together information on population and age trends to come up with recommendations that he called “spot on.” He added that he liked the fact that the plan is not full of new things.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we’re doing already and anything that’s new is just fleshing out what we’re already doing,” he said, “and I think it was really well done.”

Councillor Phinney said people he’s talked to have never heard of the recreation master plan.

“They have no idea what I’m talking about,” he said, adding that the town’s communication process is not working.

“There’s a lot of people being left out,” he added, “and I think we really need to develop that before we turn around and actually approve something that only has been approved by 420 people.”

To read the draft recreation master plan, click here.

For information on how to provide comments to town staff about it, click here.

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2 Responses to Council to be asked to approve Sackville’s new recreation plan

  1. Rima Azar says:

    Thank you for this detailed article with its report and links.

    I do not have any opinion on the matter. I find the topic interesting and I am just curious…. Who knows? I may have been a participant without knowing (I completed a survey once online for fun during a work break :)).

    The article reads: “In the course of putting the new plan together, town staff solicited the opinions of more than 430 people during two focus group sessions, a public consultation meeting, three online surveys as well as a booth at the Sackville Farmer’s Market”.

    Is there a way of informing the Councillors/public on the exact number of participants for each the methods used above, I am asking because I find the total of 430 participants quite large, in addition to the groups or types of citizens consulted. From when to when (period of time)?

    I think it would perhaps also help to know the composition of the groups in the two focus groups (usually conducted in small numbers of 7-8 participants maximum), as described herein:

    Comment from Bruce Wark: Thanks for pointing out the need for more detailed survey information. I have included what it says in Section 1 of the recreation master plan about the surveys, focus groups etc. It is available by clicking on the link in my article that says: “To read the results of these surveys as outlined in the recreation master plan, click here.”

  2. I would like to share with you some details within the draft regarding the make up of participants.

    The committee to over see the process consisted of:
    MT.A Athletics Representative(s)
    MT.A Student Life Representative(s)
    MT.A Summer Camps Representative(s)
    The Drew Nursing Home Representative(s)
    TRHS Athletics Representative(s)
    Tantramar Family Resource Centre Representative(s)
    Tantramar Seniors College Representative(s)
    Tantramar Outdoor Club Representative(s)
    Town Staff

    Focus Groups
    15 youth participants TRHS Focus Group
    11 Minor Sports participants Focus Group
    12 participants Public Input Session

    3 on-line surveys completed:
    37 MT.A Students
    219 Middle School Students
    137 General Citizens

    Total number of participants 430 and as reported by Mr. Pryde at the meeting of which 234 were youth.
    2016 census information
    5331 permanent residents
    24% over age 65
    62% between the ages of 15-65
    59% of the ages 15-65 are over age 40

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