Councillor Tara McFadden zoomed in on the importance of a thorough public engagement on the Jim Uffelmann Memorial Park study now underway.
During council's committee-of-the-whole meeting on Mar. 20, McFadden asked a series of questions of community services director Mitchell Hamm to better understand the extent of the engagement methods being incorporated and sought assurances that public feedback would weigh into the recommendations that will be brought forward.
"It sounds like you've got a fairly robust public engagement process planned out, which I'm very excited to see," said McFadden. "It's so important in so many things we do, but this is a piece that's so important for connectivity, for dog lovers, and for those of us who like to enjoy the river. So it's an important piece and it's really important that the community have a chance to have a say."
The update presented to council made note of the strong, varying opinions from residents on what the best use of this park space is, coupled with significant visible ongoing erosion along the banks of the river.
"An in-depth analysis is required to determine the best use of this pristine outdoor area to best serve all residents of Cochrane while ensuring due diligence in land stewardship for the area," it states.
Internal stakeholders and external stakeholders were engaged through January, Hamm told council.
"The majority of the public engagement at this point through the channels that we'll use through the survey will be capturing the information," Hamm explained. "However, we will continue to maintain a strong relationship with the targeted stakeholders that we've identified through this project because we do want their involvement in the process as well as council and the parks and rec committee."
The first community-wide public survey is being launched on Apr. 10 that will last six weeks until May 22.
Previous to that, some research was completed in the park in November and December. The geotechnical and environmental assessments will continue this spring and summer, along with further community engagement.
In September draft study preparations and key stakeholders follow-ups will take place.
An open house will be held in October as well as stakeholders reviews and study finalization in preparation for a presentation to town council in November.
The park is used by a diverse group of people and is an off-leash park. It's also expected to become part of the Trans Canada Trail at some point in the future, something Councillor Patrick Wilson wanted to make sure was considered in the engagement. It is.
"We are hoping to bring something to council that's reflective of a guiding document, not as something that is going to inform next steps, so that we can make that decision together and part of that decision is identifying. the increase in usage and maintaining the feel of the park as being a nature l space, not a fenced-in containment. We understand the goal and the vision of this project and we hope to bring something back so that council can guide us to the next step."
The park was renamed in memory of Jim Uffelman in 2018. He was known to many as the "mayor of the dog park," and was a long-standing advocate for more off-leash parks in the community.