New soccer fields, an improved outdoor running track and a place to cross-country ski.
These are just a few of the suggestions that came out of the City of Brandon’s first public workshop on its Greenspace Master Plan.
"Brandon’s a great place to live and we have to make (greenspace) a priority to keep attracting families and to keep up with what other cities offer," said Barb Hildebrand, one of nearly 100 residents who attended the workshop at the Keystone Centre on Wednesday evening.
"I have a daughter that plays soccer, so that definitely would be high on my list of things to do."
The event was the first of three workshops, put on by consultants with Peter J. Smith and Company, hired by the city.
Consultant Eve Holberg started the workshop with some information on Brandon’s demographics — the median age in the Wheat City is 35.6 years, compared to Canada’s 40.6 years.
"This means we’re going to be having families … probably more children," she said. "We’re not going to be aging out as quickly as some areas."
Brandon’s population has grown 11 per cent in the last five years, compared to Winnipeg’s 4.8 per cent.
Holberg said it’s necessary to plan for more population growth, as projections indicate the population will be close to 80,000 in 30 years.
"You’re a growing city and you need to make sure that you’re providing these (greenspace amenities)," she said. "This is something that we expect from our cities, it’s something that we expect as taxpayers, and it’s something we expect as residents."
Greenspace, which includes parks, trails, outdoor recreation facilities, etc., adds to the quality of life for a resident, she said.
"How are you going to attract and hold on to a good residential base if there’s nothing to do here? People will leave," Holberg said.
Greenspaces are also a major economic tool, she added, to attract families, investors and tourism.
Residents were asked to work in groups to fill out a workbook and identify priorities.
Joe Thomassen started Optimist Soccer Park decades ago and wants the city to figure out a plan for its future.
"When I drove by there on a regular basis… it really made me feel good," he said. Hundreds of children would use the park on a regular basis. But now, it’s often out of commission, due to the fact it is under water from the rising Assiniboine River.
"Now we lost everything," he said. "I don’t know. We should have maybe had a dike there before. I was talking about dikes many … years ago, but nobody wanted to listen."
Those in attendance were asked to fill out a questionnaire, rating things like pedestrian and bicycle access to greenspaces. Should there be more naturalized areas in Brandon, or more outdoor entertainment venues? Should there be more outdoor sports facilities?
In addition to the workshops, the consultants have been conducting focus groups with athletes, fitness enthusiasts, economic development representatives, service clubs, etc.
"Greenspaces define a community," said Peter Smith, president of the company. "(Brandon’s) pedestrian bicycle circulation system and linking to all the parks and open spaces really forms a back bone of the community."
Smith said greenspaces are also important for the social aspect of life, as well as maintaining natural environment.
The consultants will take the feedback from the workshop, analyze it and come back for another public session in November.
They expect to make a presentation to city council with recommendations in mid-December.
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