(From left) Don Cramb

(From left) Don Cramb

Ridge recreation survey results being crunched, summary soon

Consultant to update council about public feedback on ‘having fun.’

The replies to the mail-in surveys came back, 508 of them, along with 94 other completed questionnaires from sports and cultural groups about what kind of swimming pools, parks, playing fields and arenas Maple Ridge will have in the next decade.

And the online, open surveys, where anyone can spout off on the same topic, have been extended a month (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Facility_Talk_Open_Feedback) having already drawn 400 replies so far.

All those numbers are now being crunched by the consultant who’s soon to give a draft summary to help politicians as they wade through Maple Ridge’s community facilities consultation.

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw will be excited to see the results.

But he says that whatever recreation projects are decided will take years, maybe 20, to build, and pay for.

“It’s not looking at this, trying to spend $100 million in two years,” Shymkiw said Wednesday.

He hopes the public will be reassured somewhat by the gradual timeframe, noting there have been big numbers mentioned.

“What we need to be doing, if we’re going to be a responsible council, is setting a long-term prioritization and visioning process.”

Maple Ridge started its consultation in December, looking for input on building a new aquatic centre, priced at $70 million, expanding ice facilities, priced at $35 million, a new 5,000-seat stadium, priced at $30 million, building a new museum and cultural centre, priced at $40 million, and neighbourhood community facilities.

Displays of the proposed facilities are still up in city hall and Maple Ridge public library, where people can fill out feedback forms. Public meetings are still to follow.

Shymkiw said the shared recreation agreement with Pitt Meadows, which ended last year, also delayed planning because the next new pool was supposed to go in that city.

Fields are needed and are some of the cheapest facilities to build, but, “Personally, I think we really need additional ice surfaces.”

Council, last week, heard a presentation from the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association on the shortage of ice time and prices for ice time.

Finding enough land, for both any facility and for the required parking, will be an ongoing challenge for recreation in Maple Ridge.

He notes, though, that any new rink at Planet Ice in Albion flats will take away some of the current parking, while also requiring additional parking in an area which is already being stressed by the planned new artificial soccer field in Albion Sports Complex.

“In this plan, no matter what, we’ll have to buy land.”

Shymkiw added that the suggested new projects, so far, have ignored baseball, softball and slowpitch.

“It needs to be a bottom-up community plan. It can’t just be a top-down plan coming from the city because it’s not sustainable if you don’t have that level of buy-in.”

The process could also bring the community together as different groups talk and plan together.

Don Cramb, Maple Ridge’s senior recreation manager, said he’s heard similar feedback from ball user groups that there’s nothing in the plan for baseball, slowpitch or softball.

“That came through loud and clear on that survey, Cramb said.

People also spoke out about the need for another swimming pool.

“The swimming pool people were very vocal in their needs.”

He also said finding space for facilities is challenging. And every facility needs to allow space for parking.

Out of all the input methods, the mail-out survey is considered the most statistically valid and representative of public opinion because it’s done on a random basis.

A total of 3,000 surveys were mailed out and people who filled them out and returned them were eligible to win an iPad and other prizes.

That survey included sample financial scenarios.

One suggested building all of the projects, with 1.5-per-cent tax increase applied every year for nine years. That would mean residents, on an average home valued at $550,000, would pay another $28.50 the first year, with that amount increasing each year. By Year 9, the resident would be paying a total of $294 more in taxes a year.

An alternative scenario called for a one-per-cent tax increase over 15 years, meaning by Year 15, the average resident would be paying another $350 a year in taxes for the new rec facilities.

Council will decide later this year which projects will actually be built, over what time period, and how much to borrow. That will have to get the public’s OK through the alternative approval process, in which 10 per cent of eligible voters have to reject the proposal, otherwise it goes ahead.