By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
A designed, yet natural space is what Coalhurst residents would like to see for The Wetlands development.
During their regular April 18 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed The Wetlands Public Engagement Report. The report was on the town’s public engagement regarding how the town could best develop the land surrounding the stormwater management ponds on the east side.
An open house had been held March 14, which was attended by approximately 20 people. In addition, The Wetlands Engagement Survey was available online and advertised via Facebook and posters were placed at local businesses beginning on March 7. The survey was active from March 7 to April 1.
Reminders about the survey were shared in the Town newsletter and on social media, and a QR code for the survey was on the posters.
A total of 184 survey responses were received – 173 online responses and 11 responses that were submitted in-person either at the Open House or at the Town Office. In addition to questions, the surveys contained a space for additional comments.
According to the survey results, the majority of respondents indicated they wanted the land to be either a professionally designed community park (82 responses) or natural prairie park with amenities (76). Other responses indicated they would prefer either maintained sod with amenities (45), natural prairie (12) or other (11). Town CAO Jeffrey Coffman noted that while the top two responses may seem contradictory, they were “not mutually exclusive”.
“I think what the community is identifying is that there is a desire to have something designed, something created, something that is truly Coalhurst, but respecting the natural environment, the natural park with amenities,” said Coffman.
On the strategic purpose of The Wetlands, respondents indicated that the top three purposes should be personal health and well-being (128), beautification of the town (121) and natural landscape (87).
The top 10 amenities respondents indicated they would like to see in the area were pathways around lakes (160), benches (144), lighting (107), an outdoor picnic area (103), bathrooms (102), landscaping and flowerbeds (92), a playground (92), fruit trees and berry bushes (86), naturalized forest area (83) and fenced off-leash dog run (75).
In response to the budget related questions, 70 per cent of respondents indicated they were okay with the town using specific amenities, such as amphitheater and picnic shelter use, to offset operational costs; 90 per cent would support community fundraisers/corporate sponsorships alongside the use of tax dollars to fund the amenities; and 64 per cent would not accept a temporary tax increase to complete the projects sooner if grant dollars were unavailable for some time to help fund the project.
In response to a question on timing of the project, 48 per cent indicated a reasonable timeline to fully develop The Wetlands was five years, and 42 per cent said two years.
Additional comments regarding The Wetlands included what people would like to see there and concerns on water-borne insects.
Coun. Deborah Florence said that the report affirms her belief of council’s decision for the area.
“The responses don’t surprise me too much, except that residents of Coalhurst don’t want to see more disc golf, which I find a little bit funny,” said Florence. “I think the residents who took the survey understand costs and timing and budget limitations, and they have given us a lot to consider as we move forward with the planning.”
Coun. Scott Akkermans thanked the residents who took the time to attend the open house and fill out the survey.
“Without the information they provided, it would be us kind of figuring out what we would like to see, not necessarily the needs of the community,” said Akkermans.
Council passed a motion to accept for information The Wetlands Public Engagement Report as submitted and to request the CAO to develop the next steps for planning and implementation with a presentation to council no later than Sept. 30, 2023.
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