Parks’ open houses gain valuable feedback

A series of public open houses designed to help shape a five-year Master plan for the Sault Ste. Marie’s Parks and Recreation Department wrapped up Wednesday evening.

Three public forums were held this week to gather residents’ thoughts on the city’s parks, facilities, trails, sports, and arts and culture programs.

The opening session was Monday at the Northern Community Centre and Tuesday, the forum moved to the GFL Memorial Gardens. The third and final open house was held Wednesday at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

“We got some great feedback over the last three days,” says Virginia McLeod, the City’s Manager of Recreation and Culture. “We had great attendance this evening (Wednesday). We were able to talk to a lot of different community members. Some actually brought packages of information, in addition to leaving comments.”

Mark Kontulainen, Student Athlete and Varsity Services Officer at Algoma University, says the city “has a lot of great parks and has done a great job on a lot of things” but adds there are some areas he would like to see improved.

“I think we need an upgrade to a 50-metre pool. I think that’s a big one,” says Kontulainen. “I’d like to see improvements to the Queen Elizabeth track and field. It would be great if it was turf. The eight-lane track has to be improved. It’s in disrepair.”

Each Forum featured boards for attendees to post sticky notes on what they’d like to see added, improved or upgraded.

Here are just some of the posted suggestions:

  • An indoor tennis facility
  • A rubberized track at John Rhodes for safer training and to host track
  • Drainage improvements at Arizona Park
  • A new Bellevue Park equipment plan
  • A culture centre for visual arts, dance, concerts, arts courses and
  • A snow machine staging area at the Strathclair Sports Complex
  • Level the field at Strathclair and fill potholes
  • Free children’s recreation programming downtown
  • Indoor pickle ball
  • Social activities for seniors at Bellevue Park

McLeod says while all comments and notes have yet to be compiled and analyzed, a couple of local interests stood out. “Our trails system and our waterfront are really important to the community,” McLeod says. “Lots of comments about additional amenities for these, and washrooms. Groups have also expressed interest in expanding their sports locally, including pickleball, skateboarding, tennis and disc golf.”

Residents who were unable to attend this week’s open houses can still forward their ideas and comments to the Parks Department by completing its online mini survey. You’ll find links to the survey at the city’s website:

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is working with thinc design, Mehak, Kelly & Associates, Oracle poll Research and RFA Planning Consultants to develop a five-year Master Plan and a Parkland Dedication By-law.

The second phase will include the online survey and discussions with community user groups at which point gaps in services will be identified.

After an assessment and recommendations phase, a draft report will be developed. A final report, to be presented to city council, is expected in January or February of 2024.

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