Over 1,100 people have responded to an online public engagement conducted earlier this year by the town about the future of the popular and at times controversial uses of the Jim Uffelmann Memorial Park.

Community Service director Mitchell Hamm calls it one of the most successful public engagements he's been part of and believes it demonstrates the keen interest in the widely used Bow River park.

"What we're trying to establish in terms of the conversation with the community in all aspects, not just Jim Uffelmann Park, is that we want to connect, we want to hear what's going on, and we want to understand how to best make next steps for a community that is growing at the rate that it is."

Now what's being called a Community Conversation is set to take place within the park on Oct. 1 at the park's parking lot by the SLS Centre. There park users can gain some insight into the information gathered to date and a peek at some of the findings of the environmental impact study will be provided.

"The next steps include finalizing the study, presenting our findings to Council, and ensuring that the park considers the growing needs of the community including a demand for more off-leash dog areas,” added Hamm. “With additional communities being added and future plans for Jim Uffelmann to serve as a vital commuter pathway linking Cochrane to Canmore and Calgary, preserving the park's integrity is paramount."

The 10-acre park alongside the Bow River is a much-loved off-leash area, a passion of its namesake. Uffelmann was known as the "King" of the off-leash area and a vocal advocate to establish more off-leash areas. It extends from River Ave. to the northeast of the SLS Centre.

But that's not its sole purpose. Its pathways are shared with walkers, runners, and cyclists, causing some hotted conflicts over the years. Bike Cochrane stoked that fire with a proposal it presented to town council in January 2021. Since then, there have been more level and inclusive conversations.

The area along the Bow River is sensitive and there has been concern raised over its environmental state. In February an environmental study was launched, and the results will soon be released to the public.

"We're going to reserve the major release for the overall study as a part of the complete review by our consultant for when we take the information to council," explains Hamm. "Some of the information that was received there will be included as part of this conversation to outline what we've seen, including bank erosion and our understanding of some of the wildlife habitat and those pieces."

The study intends to consider the unique complexities associated with the multi-use park. Determining its environmental impact will provide guidance for future design and park usage. 

Next steps include finalizing the study, presenting the findings to council, and ensuring that the park considers the growing needs of the community, including a demand for more off-leash dog areas, says Hamm.

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