City collects ideas for revamped recreation plan

Workshops allow residents to introduce opinions and ideas on Brandon’s 20-year Recreation and Community Facilities Master Plan.

About 75 Brandon and area residents took advantage of two public workshops allowing them to share what they believe should be priorities in a refresh of the city’s Recreation and Community Facilities Master Plan.

Two meetings were held Jan. 17 to discuss the city’s review of a long-range plan to update municipal recreation facilities and services. Besides being provided an overview of the Master Plan, attendees were also granted time to express their opinions about the future of recreational infrastructure and programming.

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“There were lots of creative ideas shared that we’re looking at as to what they’d like to see in Brandon and what they’d like to see come out of the Master Plan,” said Perry Roque, director of community services for the City of Brandon.

“We already have a broad range of facilities, but we have had a change in our population in Brandon and have received new requests we wouldn’t have got 10 or 15 years ago.”

Roque said one of the general requests from attendees was a more effective method of providing information about what recreational and cultural activities are taking place through the year. It was suggested that some events have been either publicized too late or in an inconvenient way. This has moved the city to consider adding a portal to the city’s website or creating a separate website to ensure citizens are informed about upcoming events, said Roque.

“There’s also lots of community support for another multi-use facility in the city,” he added, noting that there was also growing interest in the development of new sports such as disc golf and pickle ball.

“The big thing we’re looking at is providing services for emerging sports like cricket, activities for seniors who want stay active and creating a volunteer base to sustain recreation in the community. We know there’s demand for new facilities, but we need to know how we’re going to sustain and maintain them.”

The latter issue – volunteers – is a growing concern for many involved in Brandon’s sporting and cultural community. The city has found there is an increasing shortage of people willing to step forward and lend a hand to some initiatives.

“One of the things we heard loud and clear is that there was some volunteer burn-out,” Roque said. “Groups are looking for support and help and don’t have new, young volunteers coming up. We need to determine how to revitalize younger people into becoming more involved in the community. It’s different now than it was 30 years ago.”

The recreation facilities master plan (RCFMP) was introduced in 2007 to guide the city in establishing its priorities while developing various services and infrastructural projects including community centers, arenas, pools, sports fields, trails and courts. That plan was originally supposed to cover the city’s recreational operations through 2027, but is being  updated due to Brandon’s growth in population, the wider cultural diversity of the city’s residents and the aging conditions of some infrastructure as it pertains to demographics, accessibility requirements and new trends in recreational activity.

An online survey was opened to the public late last year to begin the collection of ideas and opinions on the issue as city administrators put together a new, 20-year RCFMP.

“The present facilities are meeting our needs and are being used to maximum capacity, but it may be time to change things up and look at what a community center would look like in a growing city. Something like that won’t be built tomorrow, but this is a master plan on what that may look like in the future,” Roque said.

“We knew it was time to do a complete refresh with a look at facilities, but also expanding that to look at recreational programming and governance models by looking at what other communities are doing to provide these services.”

The RCFMP update is scheduled for presentation to city councilors sometime this spring.

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