By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Picture Butte is looking forward into the future in regards to its parks, culture and recreation in the small community nestled in Lethbridge County.
Last week, a few public open house meetings were held with town council, with stakeholders and with residents of Picture Butte and Shaughnessy to discuss how parks, culture and recreation will look in the future in the Town of Picture Butte. Lethbridge County has also been included in the discussions.
Karen Iwaasa, public consultation co-ordinator from Stantec in Lethbridge, was on hand to discuss the open house initiative, which included big pieces of paper on the walls for people to write their thoughts, opinions and hypothetical wants and needs, which will be a part of the engagement and implementation process.
“All of the sounding boards are to do with parks, culture and recreation. The first one is more on the values — What would you want people coming to Picture Butte or people in Picture Butte to know about parks, culture and recreation? What do you want them to feel, what do you want them to know and what do you want them to do?,” said Iwaasa. Markers were provided for residents to contribute to the process, last Thursday night at the Community/Seniors Centre. Town councillors, administration and staff were also on hand to answer questions.
The next sounding board was similar to a SWOT analysis, which focused on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a specific idea(s).
“These are cogs and there’s no motion unless they work together. Yes, we’re going to have challenges, yes we’re going to have gaps but there’s ways to work them together, to become opportunities and strengths,” she said, adding the idea was for the public to indicate what they think are the challenges for parks, culture and recreation in the community, what are the opportunities, the gaps and the strengths.
The final sounding board, according to Iwaasa, was for the public to write down their dreams.
“If money was no object, what would you want for Picture Butte — parks, culture and recreation? What is your ideal dream for this town? And then, we’re going to funnel it down to reality and what would be the priorities? We’re talking about a 15-20 year horizon for the master plan. In 15 to 20 years, what is feasible for the town, to be sustainable? What kind of facilities, events and cultural activities — would you place a priority on?”
Finally, Iwaasa said, maps were provided at the open house, as the public was able to take their dream(s) and actually plot them on a town map, where they would want those to be.
“If you wanted a skate park, where would you want it to be?” And, the public could draw it right on the map provided.
From the dreams, needs and priorities will be highlighted, once all the input has been recorded.
Last week, Iwaasa said, separately stakeholders met and council met to work on their own sounding boards. At the stakeholder meeting, Iwaasa said, one group noted they would like Picture Butte to become “a front porch community.”
“That just sounds so embracing and engaging. Just to be coined like that. We’ve had some very passionate people and excellent input. The next phase will be done as a consultation again in February of 2016. That’s when we’re getting down to the needs, priorities and we’ll also explore granting and we have a needs assessment, and we have facility assessments to see if some of these facilities need upgrades or aren’t worth it. It’s multi-layers, that we’ve got coming,” said Iwaasa.
Town of Picture Butte Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Larry Davidson said the intent of the parks, culture and recreation master plan is to get a community vision for the next 15-20 years.
“And try to determine what type of recreation and culture activities they’d like to see in Picture Butte. This is a partnership between the town and Lethbridge County. We’re looking forward to hear their comments, as well. From the town’s perspective, we recognize the cost of recreation and we’re hoping the county will come back to the table and be a full-fledged partner,” said Davidson. The county will be doing a similar exercise on Dec. 10.
Davidson said Stantec will take all the information and will do an assessment of the town’s existing facilities structurally and will compile a draft report with recommendations and will bring it back to the community. “With the goal we actually finish up the project by Mar. 31, 2016. We got $75,000 worth of regional collaboration funding for this program from the province,” he noted.
According to the CAO, the experience is exciting and there are a lot of different things in the community people have expressed interest in.
“We’ve got a recreation and culture society that is actively fundraising to develop some kind of a spray park facility. The Elks have expressed interest in doing a BMX track. The challenge is we need to find the balance. What is affordable for our residents. That’s where I kind of come in,” Davidson said, adding it’s a great opportunity for council to hear first-hand what residents are thinking, as sometimes there’s perceptions that aren’t necessarily reality.
Davidson said local organizations including representatives from the library, the ag society, and the Picture Butte seniors attended the stakeholder meeting, also held last week.
Stantec’s Landscape Architect Kathryn Kitt said it’s still early in the process. “This is kind of the beginning. This is the fresh start to meet with the community and to get their input and to get those initial thoughts on what they’d like to see, in terms of parks, culture and recreation in the community,” she said.
Stantec, Kitt noted, has been working with municipalities of different sizes throughout Alberta and B.C.
“We’ve worked a bit with the communities in the past in this region. The same thing — parks and recreation. It’s always an important thing for the community. It’s always something that gets a lot of people out and a lot of interest because it’s their green space, it’s their backyards,” Kitt added.
Picture Butte Mayor Wendy Jones hopes this process will give council direction of where the Town of Picture Butte wants to go on their recreational and cultural facilities. Town council, Jones said, held a meeting to discuss the process and their ideas last Monday. “It’s interesting because we were pretty much all on the same page and now it’s to see what’s sustainable. That’s the big problem in a small town of 1,700 people. It isn’t building it, it’s sustaining it,” said Jones.