By Rob Vogt
Local Press Writer
The Town of Claresholm’s Facilities and Infrastructure Planning Committee has changed the town’s draft parks and recreation master plan to include two exercise parks with the formal approval of the chamber of commerce, one each on the east and west sides of town, which is an increase of one on the east side.
The decision came at the committee’s Aug. 24 meeting at the Claresholm Community Centre, which almost 20 people attended.
Donna Courage, president of the Claresholm and District Chamber of Commerce, then appeared as a delegation to discuss her proposal for fitness parks.
She said town council has always been on side with the parks, but wondered why the parks and recreation master plan contains one park and not the two she proposed and has been raising funds for.
She outlined what she has done so far, including having 200 surveys on the plan filled out by citizens, and gathering 459 signatures for a petition to have the two exercise parks.
“All I want to know is why?” she asked of the reduction in the plan from two parks to one.
Mayor Rob Steel, who chaired the meeting, then opened the floor to questions and comments.
Howard Evans asked if all the committee members were elected.
Steel replied they were all members of council with the exception of Doug Priestley, who is a member at large from the public. He also noted much of the council’s work starts at the committee level first.
“This is committee work we’re doing today to send something to council,” Steel said.
Iqbal Nurmohamed said he has seen these parks in other communities, and observed there is an opportunity with grants, for two parks.
“Why don’t you take this opportunity?” he asked.
Paul Champion asked the committee why free is no good, in terms of the proposal for two exercise parks at no cost to the town.
Harold Seymour said if he ever lived at the Porcupine Hills Lodge, located on the east side of town, it would be enjoyable to go to an exercise park on the east side. He felt Courage had done a lot of work, seen one at Okotoks, and it seemed the parks would not be a lot of work to maintain.
“Hopefully this council will give that a second thought,” he said.
Vivienne O’Neill also asked why the change from two exercise parks to one.
Ali Shivji said this issue has a lot of emotion, and everyone there was passionate about the community.
“I know everyone’s working hard and for the people of Claresholm,” he said. The issue seemed to be zero or two parks, based on grants, not one.
He asked if there was sort of compromise. Could the parks be phased in? Maybe the parks can be put in the plan and one can be built now and one later, within the parameters of the grant. That way the town can assess how much the park is used.
Steel then addressed the issue of process. In February, Courage came to council on behalf of the chamber. Council was receptive to her proposal, responding to support the idea and refer the whole idea to committee.
In his 10 years as mayor, he has never seen a process more open.
“This has been one of the most inclusive processes,” Steel said.
“We respect your input,” he later added.
However, other input has been these parks are not needed or wanted.
The process was to continue, but Steel said it was de-railed by an inappropriate affront to town council by a special interest group.
He then asked Marian Carlson, the town’s chief administrative officer, to explain the process. She said it started with council asking administration to develop a recreation master plan.
“It’s all encompassing for recreation needs in the community,” she said.
At the time of Courage’s proposal, the town was meeting numerous organizations in town to talk about the plan. “We have garnered public input from the beginning of the development of this plan,” she said.
By Rob Vogt