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Council Adopts Master Parks and Rec Plan
  by Francie Dennison  
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Above: Fred Galloway
Lead photo: Alex Russell

Although one municipally owned park had been excluded from the Parks Classification System of the plan, and many of the public's input ideas did not seem to be specifically addressed or incorporated into the post-public meetings final report, at their special meeting of July 3, 2014 Central Elgin Council voted to adopt the Master Parks and Recreation Plan 2014 Update.


1. Port Stanley Minor Hockey: Representative from Port Stanley Minor Hockey will be in attendance to request Council to waive rental fee for use of Port Stanley Arena for "Port Stanley 3 on 3 Spectacular Ball Hockey Tournament and Fish Fry".

The representative turned out to be Alex Russell, currently serving as Treasurer for the Port Stanley Minor Hockey Association. The purpose of this tournament and fish fry is to once again raise money to improve the Port Stanley Arena, just as they did last year for the new sound system. Russell said that last year volunteers had been very skeptical, but once he new sound system was in place and being used, many ideas have been forthcoming for other possible improvements to the arena. That said, they intend to continue to respect that "the building is owned by the Municipality, all purchases will go through the proper approval process, will be made by the Municipality, and will be available for use by other groups who rent the facility ... the fundraising team is prepared to pay for the costs associated with having arena staff members present during the event." Suggestions made have included security cameras, change rooms for girls, etc.

Councillor McNeil said this was just the kind of partnership activity the municipality is looking for, recognizing how these partnerships benefit the community. Deputy Mayor Marr agreed. Council agreed to waive the rental fee exclusive of staffing costs.

2. 2014 Recreation Master Plan Update: Fred Galloway and Michael Pease, IBI Group, will be in attendance to present the Municipality of Central Elgin 2014 Recreation Master Plan Update.

Fred Galloway said policies are the meat and potatoes of Central Elgin's Master Parks and Recreation Plan, stating that in today's world it needs to have a broader base than just sports and arenas. Walking is the fastest growing activity across all municipalities and trails and trail linkages are becoming increasingly important. As well, the surface of those trails to accommodate seniors and disabled [hard instead of soft surfaces] is also becoming a priority.

The plan focuses on using existing facilities with no major infrastructure changes (keeping in mind that the development of Port Stanley Harbour is an entirely separate issue which falls largely outside the scope of this Master Parks and Recreation Plan and, in fact, has its own Master Plan). Galloway said Central Elgin has lots of parks and open spaces, well above the norm; noting that parks are amongst the most highly valued assets by the community.

He said the key for Central Elgin going forward is sustainable services, with more emphasis on sustainability as activities and priorities change with an ageing population. Core priorities for Central Elgin are publicly accessible parks, community trails and the linkages of trails, arenas, sports fields and beaches; with the municipality providing the facilities and non-profit community groups and service clubs providing the programming as joint ventures and partnerships. Policies in the master plan: establish and define the role of the municipality; determine how to process requests; evaluate, direct and implement delivery of services. Central Elgin needs broad based opportunities for all the people and not just focus on the desires of special interest groups.

While programming is to be strictly a community role, the master plan calls for the municipality to maintain some limited operational grants, to be awarded on a case by case basis. It also calls for fee structures to be automatically discounted 25% against the adult rate for activities involving youth or disabled; and for there to be little or no fee for day time Monday to Friday use in facilities that are under used during those hours.

Michael Pease said the plan calls for doing away with postage size neighbourhood parks - no more bits of grass 1 to 2 lots in size that often get treated by neighbouring property owners as their own private land. This will make some changes to the way development agreements are negotiated.

He talked about the three levels of classification of parks as neighbourhood, community or regional. In Port Stanley, Little Creek Park would be an example of a neighbourhood park, Selbourne Park would be an example of a community park, and Main Beach would be an example of a regional park. He said the development of trails and trail linkages has a high priority and trail development must have certain standards established. He said Central Elgin needs its own master trail plan, which feeds of Elgin County's master trail plan.

The plan says that soccer is on the increase, yet the primary soccer fields located within Central Elgin are owned by Infrastructure Ontario and utilized primarily by St. Thomas residents and youth. The plan says adult baseball is on the decrease; yet they were told at the last public meeting in Port Stanley that Seniors baseball is growing in Port Stanley. As well, during the week it is common to see men's baseball, women's baseball and kids baseball all using the Selbourne Park baseball diamond throughout the spring and summer. The plan does not give the numbers to back up those claims of increasing or decreasing popularity, nor specify if those increases and decreases are the same throughout the entire municipality or if they vary by area.

Councillor Matthews noted there were very few changes between the draft and the final report which came out after the public meetings. Yet he had been at those public meetings which showed the facilities are being used by thousands of people and he was surprised there were no recommendations in support of what they had learned as a result of those public meetings. He noted none of the public input ideas seemed to be coming through in this final report. Galloway said the recommendation for operating grants is where consideration for the type of requests that came out in public meetings is incorporated.

Mayor Walters wanted to know what the report meant by the word "monitor" in recommendation #8 [that no new soccer or baseball fields be considered in the life of this Master Plan Update due to the adequacy of the current field capacity and the demographic profiles that are projected for the community; that Central Elgin should continue to monitor major facility utilization as a basis to support future, longer term facility renewal or replacement decisions; and for Central Elgin to continue to monitor ongoing ownership of Cowan Park and the Infrastructure Ontario soccer field lands to ensure long term sustainability and to be engaged with any future initiatives and development on those venues]. He wanted the wording changed to incorporate the concept of replacing those areas if anything happens to them and they are no longer accessible for Central Elgin residents. Galloway said they could easily change he wording; noting the municipality always has the capacity to respond "because we know trends change."

Although parks and recreation facilities not owned by the Municipality of Central Elgin [such as Cowan Park in Lynhurst, Lions Park in Belmont, the Sparta Community Hall, the Union Sports Club, and the Infrastructure Ontario Soccer Fields behind the old St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital], were included in the amended Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Lions Landing Marina Park in Port Stanley which is owned by the municipality but leased to the Lions was omitted from Table 4-4: Parks Classification System of the Plan.

Just prior to the 9:00 a.m. start of this special meeting of Central Elgin Council I brought this to Mayor Walters' attention and asked him why it had been omitted. He said he could certainly ask. At this point Mayor Walters asked about the exclusion of Lions Landing Marina Park from the municipality's park inventory.

Galloway said it had been excluded because they didn't know it existed, but they could always add it in. Walters thought it might have been overlooked because the municipality owns the land but leases it to the Lions Club. He suggested Galloway have some discussions with staff to see where to include it.

Council voted to adopt this amended Master Parks and Recreation Plan 2014 Update.

Correspondence (Action)

1. Andrews Sports - Letter of Endorsement: Correspondence received from Jane Andrews, Andrews Sports, requesting a Letter of Endorsement for the MTO allowing them to do safety checks on the CANAM Spyders, which is a BRP product that they sell, as they need to do safety checks on the trade-ins before they can be plated with the MTO. Council agreed to send a letter to the MTO stating they had no objection.

2. Unkept Roadsides and Ditches: Correspondence received from Joanne Ferguson, Ferguson Brothers, respecting unkept roadsides and ditches (as per Council's direction, a copy of Report PW 16-12 has been attached).

The 2012 report referred to spraying the roadsides for noxious weeds. Councillor Martyn objected to this being brought back before Council as they had already dealt with this very issue two years ago. At that time Dr. Keenleyside and another expert had come to Council to describe in detail the harmful health effects of spraying for roadside weed. She said that with huge corporate fields having replaced hedge rows and wetlands, roadside ditches were now the habitat for bees, bird, reptiles and amphibians. Noting we need the bees for pollination of our crops, "the native honey bee has been wiped out through our spraying program," she said.

Mayor Walters described how Sumac, Thorn and Willow trees growing up in roadside ditches seems to be producing some visibility problems. Martyn said that if you cut Sumac twice in the same year it will go away. Walters took exception to Martyn's declaration that roadside ditches were now the new wetlands. He insisted ditches were for drainage, to drain the water away from the roads and keep the road beds dry, because if the road beds were wet, the roads rapidly deteriorated and he didn't want to see the municipality's assets in roads vanish.

Walters said he wanted staff to consult with experts to tell them how best to protect their municipal assets of roads and ditches. Councillor Carr agreed with him and said constant cutting is cost prohibitive and temporary at best. He thought the problem could be controlled through spot spraying. Councillor McNeil thought a report from 2012 was insufficient information for dealing with a problem in 20104. He wanted consultant experts and public meetings.

Deputy Mayor Marr agreed with consulting experts but thought it was too soon for public meetings until after the experts had been consulted. If they're bringing in consultants, Councillor Martyn wants to also look at the municipality's store of roads and ditches and see if they really need to have the deep roadside ditches, as they are harder to cut. In the end, Council agreed to have staff call on some experts and report back to Council.

3. Outdoor Vendor Permit: Outdoor Vendor Permit received from Garrett Williamson, Demichi, respecting vending on the beach area. This application to sell re-tagged clothing on the beach was deferred as Councillor McNeil and Deputy Mayor Marr did not know what was meant by "re-tagged" and feared it was a flea market operation being propose.


Ad hoc Building Permit Review Committee: Permit Fees for Tents subject to the Ontario Building Code:
Council passed a resolution directing staff to prepare a by-law setting fees for tent installations subject to the Ontario Building Code at $25.00; and at no charge for tents that are set up for any event receiving a Municipal Special Event Permit for an event run by a non-profit organization.

CAO 32-14 Application for Exemption to the Noise By-law 212, as amended - St. Thomas Gun Club:
Council found out they could not give the gun club a permanent exemption, although the club is 100 years old and this is an annual major fundraising event for them. The man who had originally come to Council to object to the exemption did not come to the subsequent meeting with the gun club and Leon Bach. The gun club did change the dates so the events would not fall on holiday weekends. Council granted the exemption.

CAO 35-14 Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan:
Council received this report regarding the adoption of an Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan as required by the Green Energy Act, 2009, Ontario Regulation 397/11 as information; and agreed to allocate the necessary resources to implement the attached Strategic Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan 2014-2019 with the goal of reducing municipal energy consumption and its related environmental impact. Councillor Martyn also wanted them to look at ways to reduce the municipality's gasoline consumption.

By-law 1755: Being a By-law to Authorize Temporary Borrowing during the Fiscal Year ending December 31, 2014 to meet Current Expenditures.

Councillor Matthews noted they did not do this every year, so why this year? Karen DePrest explained it was because they could not yet issue the debenture financing for the East Side project, so it was causing a cash flow problem for the municipality right now while they wait for funding from Infrastructure Ontario. The by-law was passed.

Closed Session
CS1: Security of Property (s.239(2)(a)) - Trails (verbal report)

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