Editorial – Draft plan misses the boat

The consultant hired by South Dundas to develop the next 10-year vision for recreation released a draft version of this master plan last week. That plan includes 83 recommendations, and the rationale to back those recommendations. It is a culmination of more than six months of consultation with multiple stakeholder groups, staff, volunteers and members of the community. On July 20, a public open house was held to present this draft, and seek feedback. We at The Leader have feedback too, because not only do we cover South Dundas, we live and take part in the recreation opportunities offered here too.

This plan misses the boat on what the needs in the community are now, and how to move forward as a community. The feedback from stakeholder groups was not sufficiently valued and reflected in the draft plan. Even the much-touted survey has rudimentary analysis of demographics versus needs, and allowed non-residents to skew responses.

Areas of the municipality are noticeably underrepresented, primarily Williamsburg, despite being the third-largest village in South Dundas.

This plan drastically undersells our community. One recommendation is to put off seeking a multi-sport facility for another 10 years, and another is to not pursue a swimming pool facility – either indoor or outdoor. The potential for operational deficits is the consultants reasoning. There are no concrete capital costs for these facilities shown, which contradicts the expressed direction of some members of South Dundas council. Neighbour municipalities with similar population sizes have new arenas, outdoor pools, and multi-purpose indoor sporting facilities. South Dundas cannot have these nice amenities too?

Seventy-nine per cent of residents and non-residents surveyed wanted an indoor pool, but the draft plan says residents should continue to leave to get the services they desire.

South Dundas is already saddled with aging infrastructure like a 60 year old arena, yet this plan recommends studying the Iroquois Civic Centre to refurbish it for more indoor sports in a building that it is physically too small to support them. The recreation master plan steps on the toes of other groups and plans that have been developed, and lacked consultation with some of those groups, namely the Morrisburg Waterfront Committee. The master plan alters long-standing goals of that group.

A tragedy of this plan, if adopted as-is, is that for the first two years, only recreation signage will be improved. Limited new programing would begin after that. This plans forces youth, who have already had their lives significantly disrupted in their schooling, sporting, and recreation to essentially wait for two more years before anything tangibly pertinent for them is done. This generation of kids will be further disconnected and lost.

This plan holds back South Dundas, it does not move it forward. Master plans are the blueprint for attracting infrastructure moneys from other levels of government. This document, if adopted without substantial modification, will restrict South Dundas to applying for funding for more of the same. Not only does this draft plan fail our COVID generation of kids, and our community, it quashes any potential dreams of pursuing new recreational amenities for the next 10-20 years. This plan misses the boat by far.

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