A new strategy for recreation in Kamloops should balance structured and spontaneous recreation, a consultant told council during a recent workshop.
“We have a lot of really successful groups here in the community,” RC Strategies+Perc partner Stephen Slawuta said. “You know, sport and recreation groups — and they’re really important — but we also need to make sure that we’re providing recreation that’s kind of unstructured, spontaneous in nature.”
The Edmonton-based consultant, which specializes in community recreation planning, explained demand for passive recreation opportunities, such as pickup basketball or walking trails, as an emerging trend across Canada and in Kamloops.
Last fall, RC Strategies+Perc engaged in surveys, discussions, open house events and online commenting via the city’s Let’s Talk platform.
The consultant found that while 15 per cent of households indicated they were involved in organized hockey, for example, the “silent majority” of residents is involved in unstructured, spontaneous recreation indoors and outdoors, including drop-in activities, swimming, fitness, social events, creative arts, hiking, walking, community events, gardening, barbecuing and social events.
Slawuta said based on public feedback, residents’ recreation motivations are geared more toward personal wellness — exercise, entertainment and spending time with family and friends — than competition.
The top two recreation opportunities identified in Kamloops were the city’s natural environment and major recreation facilities in the community or neighbourhoods, such as McArthur Island and the Tournament Capital Centre.
Barriers from participating in recreation included inconvenient times and scheduling, lack of time and affordability.
Slawuta noted a “big disparity” across the community related to levels of poverty — one of the challenges he identified as needing to be addressed in the new plan.
“On a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis, really a disparate level of poverty,” Slawuta said.
“You have areas of the city that are as high as 25 per cent and 34 per cent amongst children in those neighbourhoods,” he said.
“I mean, that’s a high level of poverty and we need to think about how we provide recreation to those areas of the city and make sure they have equitable access to the benefits that we can accrue through recreation, as well.”
Mayor Ken Christian called it “interesting” that investments going forward should go toward passive recreation.
“That is not to say, that the Tournament Capital initiative should be thrown out the window because that’s what brought us to where we are today,” he said, noting the need for continued investment in maintaining the city’s current facilities.
Christian cited a hardcourt in a park in Monterey, Calif., complete with grandstands for people to watch. He said many communities are moving away from gymnasiums and organized leagues.
Slawuta noted other trends in recreation, including multi-purpose facilities, convenience and comfort amenities — from Wi-Fi service to seating areas to public artwork — and quality of experience, such as artificial turf, lazy rivers and natural playgrounds.
He said growth projections for Kamloops require planning for a city with between 20,000 to 30,000 more residents.
“Really adding on a small city to what we have already,” he said. “We need to think about that when we come up with priorities.”
RC Strategies+Perc and the city have been consulting with the public about recreation, considering changing demographics, aging infrastructure and demands.
A draft recreation master plan will be available for public feedback later this spring.
They want and need more, but do not want to much more
Asked about a need for recreational facilities in Kamloops, 47 per cent of survey respondents say yes to capital development and 39 per cent are unsure.
Top priorities identified by residents indoors and outdoors are a performing-arts centre and expanded trail networks.
When it comes to paying for enhanced recreation, 79 per cent say they would pay up to $100 more come tax time, but there is no appetite to spend much more than that.
Nor are residents in favour of a significant increase in user fees.
Consultant Slawuta said residents see arts and culture as a gap in the city’s recreation. Compared to other communities, Kamloops’ strength lies in its multi-purpose sites and gap lies in a cultural facility with about 600 seats.
“That’s probably not a huge shock,” Slawuta said.