Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saanich Parks and Recreation Master Plan

Saanich has a started a process to gather input so it can develop an parks and recreation master plan.

I am happy to see them consulting with the public on parks and recreation, but my fear is that the master plan will be one more planning report in this region that acts as if the municipality it is for is in complete isolation from all the others in the CRD.  Parks and recreation are used region wide by the public and the I know of no one that seriously thinks about the municipal boundaries when considering what facility or parks to use.

I live in a negibourhood that is split in two because of a municipal boundary.  We are not Saanich residents but our local recreation facility is in Saanich - Pearkes.

The survey Saanich is asking about recreation and parks differentiates between Saanich and non-Saanich residents.  Does this mean the input from non-residents will be discounted?

Here are some things I think should be a priority for Saanich:

More sidewalks, a lot more sidewalks.   Saanich seems to be strongly biased in favour of travel by car than encouraging walking.   The rate at which sidewalks are being added is woefully slow and will never catch with what is needed right now.    In the Tillicum Gorge neighbourhood Saanich needs to build close to 50 km of sidewalks and needs to either fix or dramatically improve the sidewalks on all the major streets.   This is only one neighbourhood.

There is an immediate need for more ice surfaces.   There are two municipal rinks and one UVic rink within the boundaries of Saanich, all three of them nowhere near the core of Saanich.   Canada averages about one ice sheet per 13,000 people.   Saanich averages one per 40,000.   The upshot of this is that ice time for minor hockey and figure skating is vastly over subscribed.   Saanich should have nine ice sheets.

Saanich should place a two sheet arena at Commonwealth, they should partner with UVic to build a new two sheet facility there. Beyond that they should be looking at building an arena that could seat a couple of thousand somewhere near city hall - that should also have a second sheet of ice.  Doing all this would still leave Saanich at only eight ice sheets, less than the Canadian average.

The Cedar Hill rec centre is right on the border with Victoria.   I think it would make sense for Saanich and the City of Victoria to partner on this facility and add a 50 metre pool and ice rink to the facility.  It is right on the border and both municipalities would benefit.

Saanich needs to become much more proactive in park maintenance.   There are numerous parks that need a huge amount of help right now to save them from invasive species.  One only needs to go to Knockan Hill, Cuthbert Holmes and Mount Doug to see the damage ivy and blackberries are doing.  It looks like park management in Saanich is more by neglect than action.   In the case of Cuthbert Holmes Park Saanich has effectively abandoned 16 acres of land.   This land has no value for people or for wildlife.   Is Saanich so land rich in parks that it can afford to waste all this land?

Saanich is also not doing enough to connect people to the water in this region.   On the Gorge there is a nice walkway but the park area towards the inner harbour is very underused and is missing vital links.   There should be some space to make it easy for people to launch canoes, kayaks and sailboats.   There should be an effort made to complete a park and trail from the end of Gorge park all the way through to Selkirk water.

Over in Gordon Head and Cordova Bay, there are few decent park access points to the water.  There is more than 10 kilometres of shoreline between Mount Doug and Cordova Bay and not a lot of very inviting access points to the water.   Yes, there are a a bunch of access points, but the majority of them a rather obscured and certainly do not have any real ability for the public to park and access the water.  

Saanich is very much short of a park where you could hold events with a couple of thousand people, there is no place the municipality of Saanich could hold a large community celebration.  It is also short of parks that are enjoyable garden parks for walking in.  

I do not get there is an serious plan or effort by Saanich to expand the number of parks.  I am not entirely sure why this, but when one looks at the council inaction on sidewalks and thereby encouraging cars, the lack of decent management of many of the parks and no plan to acquire the park land needed, it really begin to feel like Saanich council is not very interested in parks for any purpose or generally  making the public more active.

This is enough for now because I suspect what I am suggesting is so far beyond what council will consider that there is little point in suggesting many of the other things parks and recreation need in Saanich.  

I will finish by comparing Richmond and Delta with Saanich.  Richmond has 40% more people than Saanich while Delta has 20%,  They both serve as the Saanich of Greater Vancouver in may ways.   Richmond has 8 public ice sheets, Delta has four public and one private.  Richmond has two large indoor aquatic centres and two outdoor pools, Delta has three aquatic centres and two outdoor pools.   Richmond has 8 community recreation facilities like Cedar Hill, all of Delta's recreation centres have pools and/or ice rinks.  And finally Richmond has a lot of sidewalks, more or less everywhere there are decent sidewalks, Delta is more sidewalk challenged but better than Saanich.   If they can do it, why is Saanich not trying harder?
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