Open house produces feedback for recreation master plan

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Last Thursday night the Town of Fort Frances Recreation and Culture department held an open house for residents to be able to contribute to the ongoing construction of a recreation master plan.

The town has engaged consulting firm RJ Burnside to assist with creating the plan.

Town staff as well as the consultants were on hand to hear residents’ comments at the open house, held in the Memorial Sports Complex auditorium.

Residents were encouraged to write their thoughts and opinions for the plan on sticky notes to affix them to boards provided by the consultants.

T.H. Lam is a landscape architect who is working on the plan with RJ Burnside. He said he was pleased with the turnout given the population of the town.

“This is actually one of the better turnouts we’ve encountered, it’s a very positive turnout,” he said. “From the boards we’re getting a lot of comments and ideas that we can take back and prioritize and itemize them and make sure the comments are all captured in the report.”

Recreation and Culture Manager Nathan Young was also pleased with the opportunity to meet with residents.

“I think the turnout was fantastic, I didn’t get a count but the room was full for the entirety of the time. That shows me that the community is invested in recreation. Good conversations are being had,” Young said. “There’s a lot of conversation about how to get the public involved in consultation and be a part of that, whether it’s a committee or more public open houses when we’re working on different projects. There were a lot of opinions that came out about ‘how do we get back to where we have been in the past.’ I think that narrative needs to shift a little bit in terms of what we are working towards in the future.”

Lam says he feels like the town is in a good position at the moment but there are some things to think about going forward.

“It’s very refreshing to see a municipality of this size and this population has a lot of programs and a lot of municipally owned facilities,” He said. “But I think the challenge is how to work with staff to manage that a little bit and to reprioritize some of the facilities and programs but at the same time, we have to be cognizant that the solutions that we recommend to staff are age friendly. So across the board from childhood development to teenagers to to middle aged people, and also to our senior citizens, as well.”

Lam had a similar opinion to Young in that there needs to be a balance in working from the past into the future.

“It’s twofold,” Lam said. “You look at the older demographic, they’re the ones that pioneered what you have today. Then this afternoon we engaged with the high school students, they are the future of this community. The future in terms of leadership and in terms of those who are staying and working in the community to keep the legacy for Fort Frances going.”

Young says developing the plan for the future needs to look at the successes of the past.

“We can learn from the successes of the past,” He said. “We can learn from them, we can grow and we can take elements that created those and expand on them, but we’re in a new demographic, we’re in a new world, we’re in a new level of experience where the same community events that worked in the past aren’t the same community events that people do in the future, so how do we shift that?”

Lam said they received valuable feedback from the high school students. Some teachers even brought entire classes to participate.

Town of Fort Frances recreation and culture manager Nathan Young, left, and Interim CAO Travis Rob look over some of the community submitted comments during the Recreation Master Plan open house held at the Memorial Sports Centre auditorium on Thursday, February 8, 2024. – Allan Bradbury photo

“They’re happy with the facilities being offered,” Lam said. “They use them, some of them even work for the town or volunteer… They could be running some of these programs in the future, working for the town or they could be taking a trade to help maintain and keep the facility current or they could be engineers or architects so it’d be helping them design and build new facilities.”

Young says parsing out all of the feedback they’ve received from a variety of sources will be a task for the consultants and he’s looking forward to reading what they come back with in a few months.

“I think our consulting group is going to do a good job of highlighting (good ideas that have been shared) in the final rec master plan when it comes out,” Young said. “Remembering that this rec master plan is not the solutions to what we are doing in the next 10 years. It’s a roadmap to how we can best come to the decisions that need to be made to achieve the desired outcomes.”