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City unveils master plans

St. Albert residents have a chance to shape the future of fun this month now that the city has released its master plans for culture and recreation.
The City of St. Albert is seeking input into two new master plans
The City of St. Albert is seeking input into two new master plans

St. Albert residents have a chance to shape the future of fun this month now that the city has released its master plans for culture and recreation.

The city released drafts of its recreation and cultural master plans just prior to the Thanksgiving long weekend. The documents, once approved, will guide how the city plans its sports, recreation, and arts programs for the next 15 years.

The city hopes residents will read the documents and comment on them through two online surveys, said Monique St. Louis, the city's director of recreation services. "Now we're at the draft stage where we want to say, 'Have we got it right?'"

Get recreating

The city started both these plans about a year ago, St. Louis explained, and has spoken about them with a long list of community groups. Both plans are pretty high level at this point but they'll lead to more specific on-the-ground actions in the years ahead.

The city's last recreation master plan was done in 1999, St. Louis continued, and much has changed since then. We now have Servus Credit Union Place, for example, and a better appreciation of the need for spontaneous outdoor recreation.

This new plan is a hefty 96 pages and covers most sports and recreational activities.

"It's the blueprint for the future of recreation in St. Albert," St. Louis said.

The plan sets out a number of strategic goals for recreation services ("ensure community health and well being," for example) and outlines a number of recommended actions. The city should help community groups retain volunteers by creating a volunteer support centre, for example, as well as a volunteer database. It also recommends more support to groups that promote sports tourism.

The report also calls on the city to do more to market sponsorship opportunities for recreation.

"If we were to build another pool in 25 years," St. Louis said as an example, "would we sell the name of that pool?"

In the near term, this could mean promoting banner ads at sports fields so companies could sponsor several teams at once.

Recreation is an essential element when it comes to a business's decision on where to set up shop, according to Lynda Moffat, president of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce.

"Often the deciding factor is what a community has to offer to families," she said.

St. Albert has plenty to offer now, she said, and this plan should help maintain that variety.

A plan for culture

The draft cultural master plan weighs in at a svelte 25 pages and covers most of the city's arts groups. It's also the first cultural master plan in the city's history.

St. Albert is one of the first cities in Alberta to have a stand-alone culture department, said Kelly Jerrott, director of cultural services, and wants to build on it. This plan is meant to give local artists and art groups the support they need to thrive and stay in the city, improving quality of life and helping to draw more cultural tourists to St. Albert.

The plan specifically sets out to nurture future cultural leaders, enhance current attractions (such as heritage sites) and attract and retain young professionals. This could include an expanded StArts Fest, an adopt-an-artist program for businesses, and a downtown cultural storefront to provide information and tickets to local events.

"We do have a number of heritage sites in the city," Jerrott noted, and the plan suggests creating a formal St. Albert heritage tour to draw more visitors.

It also has some wilder ideas, like dance mobs. These would be similar to the spontaneous flash-mobs that have become popular as of late, Jerrott said, and would likely be part of a larger event like StArts Fest.

"It's just a little bit of fun to inspire creativity in the community," she said.

It's delightful to see culture getting its own plan, said Paul Moulton, executive director of the St. Albert Arts & Heritage Foundation, as it was often lumped in with recreation in the past.

"Cultural tourism is the fastest growing sector in tourism," he said, and the city has excellent attractions such as the Arden Theatre and International Children's Festival to build on.

"It's not like we have to invent this stuff from scratch," he said.

The city is holding an open house on the parks and recreation plan on Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Progress Hall at St. Albert Place, St. Louis said. The open house on the cultural plan takes place the next day at the same time and place. The online surveys are open until Nov. 30.

Both reports go before council next year. Copies of the plan and the surveys can be found on the city's website under the 'Community' tab.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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