Revising plans for the future Horse Creek Destination Sports Park is top of mind for the town's parks and recreation committee.
Committee chair and town councillor Tara McFadden says the focus this spring and summer will be to have a plan completed by the fall so it can move forward to the next steps.
A plan had been completed but needs to be readdressed now that Southland Transportation Ltd. will be no longer be located in its northwest corner.
The committee has been given a budget to complete the plan with the assistance of Urban Systems and is reviewing input received from delegation sessions last year.
"Taking in all that feedback, we're going to start at the next meeting in April in a workshop style and start to adjust things, and aim to get that plan in place," says McFadden.
There will be the opportunity for further public input once the plan is updated.
She says momentum has been lost on the town's recreation infrastructure over the last year due to the restructuring of the town's senior staff and the realities of COVID-19.
She's concerned it has fallen out of step with the needs identified by the community.
"I feel our recreation infrastructure has fallen behind and is something we really need to focus upon," says McFadden. "It has become apparent through COVID just how important our recreation is not only for our physical health but our emotional well-being, and how it brings the community together. It's something that is really important, so I'm really enjoying working with the committee and advancing this project."
McFadden says they want to make sure they get it right.
"One of the things I'm hearing is residents want this to happen, but they also want to make sure that their needs are being delivered upon, whether it's the right type of turf or that the site is designed properly. A lot of our user groups are successful, and they want to take it to the next level. They want to host competitions in Cochrane, with all the benefits that come from that, whether it be the sporting and community benefits, or the economic benefits."
The park can't be added to the town's 10-year financial plan until the plan is completed. While there is an agreement in place to purchase the land, she says that hasn't happened yet, either.
"Nobody wants to create an amazing plan that sits on the shelf. I think everybody really wants this to happen as soon as possible, but there are a lot of important steps, and we're just in the early days on this."
"We can have all the dreams we want, but they don't get realized unless we can find the money to make them happen."
Hugely impacting this, and other future town infrastructure projects will be the 25 per cent cut in Municipal Sustainable Initiative (MSI) funding from the provincial government. Along with debt and off-site levies, it's a major source of funding for infrastructure, outside of fund-raising and partnerships with local organizations.
"There's a lot of exciting things happening, but recreation needs to be a part of the puzzle as well, so we do need to make sure we build that into the 10-year plan. It's adapted around the priorities of the community, but you can't put anything into the budget until you have some kind of scope. That's what this plan will do."
When new members of the parks and recreation committee were sought by the town, there was an overwhelming response from residents. That illustrates how much importance residents place upon recreation.
"The number of applications we had to fill the council committee is the highest, I think, I've seen in my time on council.
"It's great to see, and we have such talented and invested members on this committee that are bringing some really interesting intro-perspectives into play."
The committee was created in early 2018, after being pursued by McFadden.