A new Recreation Master Plan for Greater Napanee is in its final stages of development and was presented to Council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. An indoor pool was at the top of the list of wants and needs described by the public during the consultation.
Jon Hack, Director of Sierra Planning and Management (SPM), provided a detailed update on the plan, which he hopes to finalize with the Town by December 2022. SPM is a Toronto-based planning company that provides planning, economic, and management consulting services to a wide range of public, private, and institutional clients.
“We’re not quite finished yet; the next step is to draft a plan that has a lot of recommendations nestled within it. What we’ve tried to do is tease out the issues and give you a sense of the directions that we’re taking,” Hack explained, saying that delivering the final plan by December would allow the town to consider it while they begin to assemble capital budget items for 2023.
Hack said that the recreation plan, hand in hand with the new Strategic Plan for the Town, would provide a good touchstone for recreation in Napanee for the next 10 years as the population ages and grows.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest asks from the public was for a public indoor pool. The town’s only public outdoor pool closed in 2009 when it was deemed too costly to repair, and the only public indoor pool closed in 2011.
Hack pointed out that there are no aquatic facilities within a 25-minute travel zone by car, and that “it will become a Council decision over the next year or two as to how you wish to proceed… There is a very significant statement of desire on the part of the residents to have a pool; you can translate that into an obligation to move the project forward.”
He further explained that SPM will now look at a range of solutions the town could pursue. “One is a facility solution. The other one might be a service solution, where you continue to partner with [other municipalities] in the shorter term. But either way, the Master Plan can’t ignore the issue… There’ll be enough choice there for you to… get staff instruction to move on to the next phase.” The Strathcona Paper Centre (SPC) is, “on a working assumption basis, the correct [place for a pool],” added Hack.
Ice and arenas
Napanee is in a good place when it comes to ice pad availability, Hack said, calling the SPC a “major regional facility between Kingston and Belleville. You supply and service a number of residents [both in and] outside of town.”
Hack pointed out that the SPC, which opened in 2004, “is getting old at 20 years, so obviously there is going to be a need to focus on life cycle replacement, keeping that building healthy as a facility over the next 20 years. I don’t need to tell anyone that if you look at construction costs for these kinds of institutional builds across the province, they are going through the roof at the moment.”
Hack estimated, based on Town data, that usage of the SPC was about 76 per cent in primetime, “which is good, but it could be better.” He indicated that Napanee should emulate some bigger centres which get 80 and even 90 per cent primetime usage, which could go further toward paying for the upkeep of the arena, “You obviously want to maintain a balance in revenues and costs… But at the same time [allow for] access for everyone in the community. Those outdoor recreation assets that are nestled around it [are] going to be important as well.”
Sports fields and baseball diamonds
In terms of sports fields and baseball diamonds, Hack said, “[The town has] fewer people using those fields compared to the standards that you might expect in a comparable community. That can speak sometimes to the lack of health of the organizations providing those services. So, I think there are two things to consider: one is that you don’t need to be building anything new, but you do have to maintain what you have.”
Hack said the public input included some very “some very honest commentary… about things such as irrigation and just a need to improve the quality of those fields: they are used midsummer, and midsummer it’s very dry.”
The second consideration was that user groups, clubs, and the town need to better promote themselves. “That’s really the essence of sports,” Hack stated.
Sports courts (tennis, basketball, pickleball, volleyball), he said, are an “easy win” item that Napanee could focus on because “there is a lot of space in the parks.”
In particular, Hack said, “Pickleball is really a wave that’s coming across North America… It is a very pleasant summer activity, multigenerational… On the sports courts, you’ve got facilities, but there are possibilities in the future.”
Boat launches and water sports
Hack also observed “how significant water aspects are to the municipality,” and noted that boat launches need to be a priority. “There needs to be reinvestment, [and] they need some improvements. Those, again, are wins that can be budgeted. I think they can be designed to try and make them the best that they possibly can.”
He pointed out that refurbished boat launches will bring tourism opportunities to the town, as well. “So, there’s lots to speak about in terms of riverfront opportunities as well, but it is a good news story.”
Parkland, trails, and dog parks
Hack observed that Greater Napanee has an abundance of fine available parkland and should focus on connectivity, especially north of the river going from Centre Street up to the new condominium development, “to match what is an excellent pedestrian realm on the south side going up to the rapids.”
As well, he noted the current missed opportunity to connect to the Cataraqui Trail. The Town owns railbeds that could directly connect to it, “so these are longer-term projects to make all that work, but it is something I think is important along with an active transportation strategy.” As well, Hack suggested that hard shoulders on roads leading in and out of Napanee would promote “cycling as a commuter activity and as a tourism activity.”
Dog parks were another need residents clamoured for, Hack said. “There are different ways to provide that kind of service, and it’s actually a bit more complicated than it might appear in terms of managing the expectations of people, but also managing the resource itself. So, look for some recommendations on that. But the bottom line is: yes to dog parks. How it’s done and who has responsibilities is a question which we will offer some further thoughts on.”