Increased recreational funding and upgrades to community pools would be a priority for Mayor Shari Decter Hirst if she is re-elected this fall.
Decter Hirst came out with her first campaign announcement on Friday at Rideau Park in Brandon’s east end, where a popular new spray park sits right next to the aging Kinsmen pool.
“The Kinsmen Pool needs a champion,” she said in a handout statement. “Recreation isn’t a luxury in a community of 52,000 people, with so many young families calling Brandon home.”
In a promise that echoed her 2010 pledge to keep the Sportsplex pool open, Decter Hirst said she will advocate for funding a recreational facilities master plan, plus specific funding for the Kinsmen and Keystone swimming pools.
She also said she would ask
the city’s parks department for plans to upgrade the Kinsmen Pool in 2016, to possibly include features like zero-depth entry, a lazy river and waterslides.
Decter Hirst spoke about the Recreation Facilities Master Plan which includes plans for swimming pools, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, etc. It was developed in 2007, and while it has been on the city’s to-do list, it hasn’t yet been funded.
“It’s something that I want to make sure we push for,” she said. “I will absolutely be championing it, as something that needs to be included in the 2015 budget.”
Both Kinsmen and Keystone pools are slated to be closed. However, there is no timeline for the closure.
Decter Hirst pledges to keep them open for at least another year.
“The infrastructure and the facilities are just tired, and we’ve been continuing to patch them together to keep them going, but I’m not sure how much longer we can do that,” she said.
“I want to make sure we can at least get operating funding for one more year to give us a bit of a window so that we can get that recreation facilities plan in place.”
Dana Austin, president of the East End Community Centre, attended the mayor’s announcement on Friday.
“It’s vitally important to keep recreation areas open,” Austin said. “Recreation keeps kids out of trouble and that’s always been the focus from the community centre.”
Mayoral candidate Rick Chrest said recreation facilities would also be a priority if he is elected mayor. He said many of Brandon’s recreation facilities are “tired or approaching their life span” and that needs to be turned around.
“Not a lot has been done, and not a lot of consideration has been taken for recreation in the last while,” Chrest said.
“The mayor’s had four years to seek recommendations from our parks department to put out in front of council. There seems to have been very little conversation that I can see on the topic in this last term.”
Chrest said he is concerned how the city is “backsliding” on a number of issues, such as the Sportsplex.
“The mayor campaigned (in 2010) on the notion of keeping the Sportsplex open, but done nothing to improve it in the four years since then,” Chest said.
Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Mark Kovatch only had a quick response to Decter Hirst’s announcement.
“I obviously do support public facilities, but they have to be run in a cost-effective manner,” he said.
» email@example.com, with files from Grant Hamilton