City says parks open house a ‘success’

Organizers are calling the first open house to collect feedback for a new Parks and Recreation master plan a success.

Gabriele Haas from GDH Solutions and Catherine Berris from Urban Systems sort through the hundreds of ideas on sticky notes being handed to them by people participating in a workshop on parks and recrreation.

Gabriele Haas from GDH Solutions and Catherine Berris from Urban Systems sort through the hundreds of ideas on sticky notes being handed to them by people participating in a workshop on parks and recrreation.

Organizers are calling the first open house to collect feedback for a new Parks and Recreation master plan a success.

“I think we were at about 125 (participants), so that was positive,” said Tina Lee, communications officer for the City of Penticton. “I think it was a bigger cross section than we generally see.”

Participants had the opportunity to offer their feedback in a number of ways, including participating in one of two interactive workshops.

Loraine Stephanson said she was impressed with the way the consultant, Catherine Berris from Urban Systems, conducted the workshop she attended.

“The city has chosen a very good consultant. She was very engaged and attentive and seemed very committed to having an honest outcome to the process,” said Stephanson.

Berris drew a round a laughter when she opened the workshop, noting that the city was trying for intensive public engagement.

“I think the city acknowledges it has failed in some of its consultation efforts in the past,” said Berris. “They are working really hard to make sure this process is known to everyone and everyone has a chance for input.”

This is the first new parks and recreation master plan since 1993. It’s intended be a 10-year plan to guide all planning and decision-making related to parks and recreation: indoor and outdoor facilities, trails, parks, beaches and recreation programs and services.

“Basically, everything the city does which is related to parks and recreation,” said Berris.

Stephanson praised the work done by the consultant but she thought the open house seemed to be missing the element of passive park space, a subject that has been discussed widely since the city signed a deal to lease what they considered an under-utilized corner of Skaha Lake Park to a private developer.

“There is a reason that cities have passive park space, which means it doesn’t have to be full of people all the time,” said Stephanson. “We live in increasingly urban worlds, and a lot of people living with only a balcony or a duplex that has no yard space and if they want to take a blanket and spread it on the ground and have a quiet picnic with their kids or read a book, that kind of space is increasingly vital.

“I don’t know how they came to that conclusion the end of Skaha Lake Park where the water slides is going to be is under-utilized. I like to go there because it is quiet and shady.”

The workshop focussed on visions and values that should be included in the master plan, and goals that needed to be set.

The participants’ responses were enthusiastic and wide-ranging, from preserving Skaha Park, enhancing the trail network, restoring the tennis bubble, or planting more trees.

“This evening was just the very first stage of the process,” said Lee. “We really just wanted to hear from the community about their thoughts, their recommendations, it is a big piece that focus on visions and values. From here we continue to ask people questions.”

The engagement plan includes 16 focus groups with specific user groups: arena users, parks users and other sectors. It also includes a phone survey of 400 residents, which Lee expects will be finished in the next week or two and an online site, shapeyourcitypenticton.ca, which she said is seeing engagement on a par with this week’s open house.

“That link is going to be available for all of the city’s processes moving forward and this is the first project they are using to launch it,” said Berris.

Stephanson had some concerns about the online process, feeling it was too anonymous.

“I am not sure about the online engagement, where people get to use names like ‘fluffy’ and ‘chatty.’ I find that hard to take seriously when people don’t use their real names,” said Stephanson.

The first draft of the parks and recreation master plan is expected to be ready in September, and will then be sent back to the community for more feedback, according to Lee.

“We are doing two rounds, so the community will be able to offer feedback on both the first draft and then those comments incorporated and feedback again on a second draft in November,” she said.