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Failed referendum sparks new approach; your input required

Castlegar and area residents are going to get another hands-on opportunity to help shape the future of the Complex, and of local recreation in general, at a public open house slated for next week.

This, after a $25-million recreation referendum in November 2010 was overwhelmingly defeated (roughly 40 per cent of registered voters weighed in, with 20.94 per cent voting in favour and 79.06 per cent voting against).

Castlegar and District Recreation Department (CDRD) recreation manager Jim Crockett said the referendum was a clear indication that a new approach to planning was required.

“It’s put a whole 'nother step in play – this time, we’re engaging the larger community,” he said, explaining the previous proposal had been based primarily on input from recreation users and user groups. “We took a step back and undertook (the creation of) a master plan, engaging the entire community.”

The process started in late 2014, and included a survey sent to every household in Castlegar and RDCK Areas I and J, with just under 1,000 households responding. The master plan was adopted in January 2016 after another public open house (to read the plan in its entirety, click here ).

“It was quite an extensive community consultation,” Crockett said … and they’re not done yet.

Now that the master plan has developed a series of recommendations based on community consultation, the task now is to continue to garner input as to which of those recommendations taxpayers are prepared to support, as well as considering new ideas and suggestions from the community.

Crockett said the consultants handling the master plan input are RC Strategies out of Edmonton as well as Vancouver-based PERC (which Crockett identified as one of the country’s foremost recreation consultants).

“We’re really hoping the open house is going to be interactive, with both positive and negative feedback,” Crockett said. “The last thing we want to do is create another plan the community rejects. We’re very serious about wanting input from the public, to get a measure of where people want to go with this and what level they are prepared to support it at.”

He said there will be at least two more open houses after this one, to ensure the process is driven by what the public wants.

Councillor Florio Vassilakakis wasn’t on council at the time of the referendum, but sits on the Recreation Committee now and said he’s satisfied this new process is a very effective one.

“I think we’ve gone about it correctly this time,” he said. “The master plan very much speaks to what the public really wants, versus what we might think they want.”

He encouraged residents to attend the open houses and provide input.

“It’s important that everyone engage in it and have a say,” he said. “This is not a political decision – at the end of the day, the taxpayers are going to be the ones paying for it and using it, and we want them to be happy with it.

“I’m really excited about this, because an update to this facility (the Complex) is long overdue,” he said, adding there will also be discussion about the fate of the Pioneer Arena, which is reaching the end of its usable lifespan without significant upgrades.

Vassilakakis said some of the ideas may end up, ultimately, going to referendum.

The meeting is slated for May 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Selkirk and Purcell Rooms at the Community Complex, with a presentation to start at 6:30 p.m.