Michael Cleland and Stephen Slawuta of RC Strategies presented the Parks and Recreation Master Plan report at the Smiths Falls Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday evening. The town of Smiths Falls hired RC Strategies in December 2020, and the arrival of the report at long last was welcomed eagerly. However, some aspects of the report elicited criticism and frustration from members of council.
Mayor Pankow highlighted the value of a community-focused Parks and Recreation Master Plan in supporting a thriving town. “We recognize the importance of recreational facilities for the health of our community. It’s very encouraging to have the amount of public feedback we have received, and that will guide our decisions.”
The Mayor homed in on the report’s assertion that there is “soft demand” for ice time at both arenas in Smiths Falls, due to a small number of recreational players. He clearly wanted more from the report, asking “were the barriers to utilization considered? The cost and transportation barriers for participation in organized sport?”
Councillor Chris McGuire was also disappointed in the report, which did not include utilization data (i.e. how many people use various parks and recreational amenities, and when). “Not having utilization data is a huge oversight. Without [this data], recommendations on recreation facilities lack credibility.” He also pointed out some incorrect information about local trails that was included in the report, and noted that these oversights undermined the overall value of the report.
Councillor McGuire explained that the report fell short of his expectations. “I was really hoping for some imagination in this. When you read our downtown and waterfront revitalization plan, it’s really inspiring. It’s part of why I ran for council. I don’t get that out of this document.”
Council was not prepared to adopt the report as is, and will be providing feedback to staff and the consultant team for revision.