Implementing priorities from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) parks and recreation master plan will require a more “community-focused” approach, but not necessarily more money, SCRD directors heard last week.
“A huge theme in the master plan is community development,” SCRD community services manager Paul Fenwick said at a special committee meeting Oct. 24.
On a yearly basis, the plan “might not even have budget implications,” Fenwick added. “It might just be a different style of working with the community.”
The plan was presented at the special meeting, but was not voted on for adoption because representatives from the District of Sechelt and the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) were not present.
Directors, however, praised the plan’s emphasis on community building, agreeing it should be highlighted in the SCRD’s communications strategy.
The plan calls for the regional district to assume the roles of “planner, provider, community builder and protector,” and to “work within a community development philosophy, train staff in community engagement and facilitation, and include performance measures that recognize the community-building role.”
Noting that more than 700 citizens participated in developing the plan, advisory committee chair Anne Titcomb said staff training in community development is vital, “so it’s embedded in their work and in their budgets.”
The community-building model, Titcomb said, “will support unending possibilities and unending connections for the community.” However, she added, “we don’t have to do everything.”
As an example, advisory committee vice-chair Pat Hunt pointed to the previous weekend’s Halfmoon Bay Apple Festival, where SCRD property was used but volunteers from the community organized and ran the event.
The master plan, Hunt said, provides the SCRD with the “knowledge that your community really values the parks and recreation fabric. Your challenge will be setting those priorities but also keeping the dialogue going with your community.”
Appearing as a delegation alongside Mayor Wayne Rowe, Gibsons Coun. Lee Ann Johnson identified two weaknesses in the plan — “meaningful references to cultural activities” and “references to the variety of our seniors,” including the frail elderly.
In response to the second point, which Johnson had raised more forcefully at a Gibsons council meeting in July, Titcomb cited the Healthy Heart Program and said Vancouver Coastal Health is asking for more partnerships to develop wellness programs on the Coast.
Also appearing as a delegation, School District No. 46 board vice-chair Betty Baxter said she was happy to see multiple references in the plan to early childhood programs, “and we would be very interested in collaborating.”
The school district could also collaborate on trail-building projects, possibly by assigning students who need work experience, she said.
“I certainly encourage you to proceed with this plan and am delighted to see it happen with the community-development perspective,” Baxter concluded.
The master plan will come back to the regional board for adoption after it is presented to the District of Sechelt council and SIGD.