Regionalizing recreational facilities and services in the Smoky River area is the only option for adequately and efficiently serving users and taxpayers.
That was the consensus at a meeting hosted by Falher and Area Recreational Development Society in Girouxville last Sunday to discuss the future of recreational facilities.
Organizers of the meeting were optimistic about the outcome.
“It was a positive step for people to look to the future,” ‘said Jeannette Cinq-Mars, who has chaired the society.
“People were looking at the region not just themselves.”
Chairing the meeting, society secretary Dan Dibbelt agreed with her.
“Everyone came with open minds and saw the value and necessity of regionalization,” said Dibbelt who also serves as Falher and Area Economic Development and Tourism Officer.
Representing local governments and recreation and social groups, all 17 people at the meeting agreed that centralizing recreational facilities was more economical for all users and taxpayers.
“How long can we support the number of facilities we have?” asked Dibbelt.
After lengthy discussion, the group decided to hold a meeting of the society and present proposed bylaws to change the society to carry a regional mandate.
From that meeting, the society hopes to form a board with equal community representation.
Dibbelt also noted that funding from all levels of government was dwindling and grants would likely be prioritized for larger regional projects rather than small community facilities.
With a population of around 5,600, the region currently has three ice rinks and three curling rinks in four towns.
Many of them are aging and nearing a stage of major repairs.
Further, he said that other area groups are becoming stronger under a regional mandate.
“Current facilities can’t support themselves,” said Municipal District of Smoky River Reeve Don Dumont, who agreed with the regional concept.
He suggested that the society assess the current facilities and envision the communities and region 20 years into the future, considering the projected population growth, the aging population, and potential decline in use of recreational facilities.
One large central facility is easier and more economical to operate than several smaller venues, he added.
“If you centralize, the facilities are better and will be used more,” said Dumont. “Without a regional recreation facility, we may face the dilemma that one day we may have no facilities.”
All communities and user groups of recreation facilities will need to discuss the concept and decide.
“It has to be community-driven,” added Dibbelt.
All agreed that it is vital for all communities and recreational groups to get onside now and start planning and thinking regionally for the future, rather than deny the fact and wait to start planning when the aging facilities close for any viable reason.
“We have to support one another to survive,” said Dibbelt, adding that the new society will be charged with the task of planning.
During discussion, Dumont also asked who would decide on the demise of the existing facilities.
Falher Town Administrator Gerard Nicolet suggested an independent consultant be contracted to help facilitate the process and give an objective view about what would best serve regional needs and be economically efficient.