The Recreation Services Master Plan for District 69 is headed to the District 69 Recreation Commission for final review.
The Regional District of Nanaimo board of directors, at its committee of the whole meeting April 10, approved staff recommendation after it received an update from Steve Slawuta of RC Strategies + Perc, the firm commissioned to draft the master plan.
As well, the committee of the whole endorsed the initial work on infrastructure projects identified in the master plan. They include construction and operation of a rubberized athletic training track at Ballenas Secondary School; construction and operation of an artificial turf field; and expansion of Ravensong Aquatic Centre. Staff will be directed to work on project planning, community review and cost estimate information and funding sources, to be completed prior to the 2019-2024 financial plan.
In creating the master plan, Slawuta told the board different groups, stakeholders, as well as residents were engaged to provide feedback and suggestions. They were given the opportunity answer surveys, review the plan online and/or attend five open houses conducted throughout the communities in District 69.
About 51 per cent of households would like to see new or enhanced indoor facilities and 49 per cent of households would like to see new or enhanced outdoor facilities and spaces. The top indoor priorities identified by residents include indoor swimming pools; a health and fitness centre; and a multi-purpose recreation centre. The leading outdoor priorities are trails; natural parks and protected areas; picnic areas and passive parks.
Slawuta reported there was a higher number of people that agreed than disagreed with most of the recommendations in the plan. But the one issue that garnered the most perspective and a variety of opinions, he said, concerned what the best future approach is for the Ravensong Aquatic Centre. As well, Slawuta pointed out track and field infrastructure should receive more focus in the plan.
The master plan has 34 recommendations divided into two categories — service delivery and programming; and infrastrucutre.
Slawuta indicated that the RDN’s current delivery of recreation services and programming is working out quite well and should continue through a combination of direct and indirect delivery methods. Priority, he added, should continue to be on developing cross-sectoral collaborations and partnerships with a focus on public health, social service and education sectors.
That includes working with City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach and School District 69 (Qualicum) to define clearly the role of each in relation to future recreation planning and capital development.
As for the infrastructure, research has shown that capacity issues exists with the Ravensong Aquatic Centre. Three options were identified, analyzed and scored to address it. The first option is to expand the facility with the addition of a wellness centre at a cost of $8.7 million. The second is to go for option one and add two lanes to the existing tank. This would cost around $11 million. The third route is to build a new medium-scale facility, which is estimated to cost $20 million.
The master plan recommends renovation and expansion of the existing aquatic centre and that options one and two should be explored. Slawuta said a second facility is not warranted until the population of the area is nearing 70,000 or exceeds 60,000 to 70,000 residents.
The District 69 Arena in Parksville’s Community Park, Slawuta said, should continue to operate as a curling facility for as long as the building is available. It is, he said, the most appropriate and beneficial use of the space. To determine the best long-term course of action for curling infrastructure in the future, Slawuta said it would require a collaborative effort involving the two local municipalities, SD69 and the RDN.
As for outdoor sport field and surfaces, the plan suggests a concerted effort be made to determine better use of underutilized field spaces. And to meet short- to medium-term needs, the RDN will have to work with Parksville, Qualicum Beach and SD69 to explore upgrading the track at the Ballenas Secondary School and retrofitting of a natural surface field to artificial turf.
The development of a full-scale, outdoor multi-use sport complex should be deferred for five years but discussions should be initiated now, Slawuta added.