Pickleball is a fast-growing sport (Photo: Comox Valley Pickleball Association)

Courtenay to consult public on recreation, parks master plan

Courtenay will soon be consulting with the public for the creation of a parks and recreation master plan.

Last year the city hired Urban Systems to begin the process with a thorough evaluation of the condition of the city assets.

“Thousands of data points were collected along with the condition of trails, parks, furnishings, buildings, sports fields and playgrounds,” said Dave Snider, Director of Recreation and Cultural Services, in his written briefing note to council.

During the summer and fall, Urban Systems will be hosting focus groups, event booths, online surveys and various other consultation methods to get input from the community on parks and recreation services.

One group that the city knows will be front and centre in the process is the local pickleball association.

“It seems particularly timely … there’s a tempest in a teapot with the pickleball community right now,” said Counc. Doug Hillian. “Some of the issues out there in our recreational programming … that we really do need to consider, considering the changing times we’re in.”

Snider said “pickleball is a great example” of new, emerging sports that the city will have to consider in its master plan.

“Sports trends are a big deal,” he said.

The pickleball kerfuffle mostly revolves around places to play.

Snider said the pickleballers want permanent court lines for their sport painted on the existing tennis courts. The tennis players don’t want to see that.

A report will be coming soon on this issue, Snider said.

“Pickleball is an emerging sport that’s taking off in a big way across North America. It’s important to recognize, as is tennis,” said Snider. “Both sports are accelerating … it becomes ground zero in competition for limited space.”

In the meantime, he noted that the city doesn’t have a “very robust existing master plan” for parks and recreation.

That’s why his department started with an inventory. When it comes to parks, for instance, the initial analysis shows where some of the city’s needs are, where park space is lacking, and areas where they’re over-serviced.

“What our consultant encourages us to do is to take a look at a city standard … we’re looking for a very Courtenay-esque solution,” Snider said.

CAO Dave Allen noted that master plans are typically “aspirational”. Once that’s done, council has to come back and consider asset management, levels of service, and willingness to pay.

“That’s where the rubber kind of hits the road,” he said.

At the end, he said, council has to engage with the public and determine their willingness to pay.

Mayor Larry Jangula said the regional district recently went through a master plan process for its indoor recreational facilities. The consultant interviewed around 500 people and “they had a list as long as your arm” of facilities and improvements they wanted.

“How much extra are you prepared to pay for these things. I think sometimes we have to never lose sight of, and ask the public, is how much are you prepared to pay?”