City unveils ‘visionary’ Rotary Park plan

The Rotary Recreation Park could be transformed into a green downtown oasis connected by a wide pedestrian thoroughfare connecting ice and water sports centres featuring a competition-length pool and new dual arenas.

The Rotary Recreation Park could be transformed into a green downtown oasis connected by a wide pedestrian thoroughfare connecting ice and water sports centres featuring a competition-length pool and new dual arenas.

An ambitious concept plan unveiled Wednesday moves around features such as the ice skating oval, lawn bowling green and horseshoe pits to create a revamped park ringed by a lit walking trail and beautified with a large pond. Running the length of the park from the Golden Circle to the Red Deer Arena would be a walkway that would become a central feature and pedestrian draw.

The recently renovated Recreation Centre could be transformed into an aquatics centre with 50-metre indoor pool, a long-cherished ambition of local competitive swimmers.

The existing outdoor pool would be removed and replaced with other outdoor swimming areas and spray parks further south.

In between the Red Deer Arena and the Kinex Arena, two new indoor ice surfaces could be built creating what planners billed as youth and ice zones. The skating oval could be moved to Barrett Park and two outdoor rinks built.

Eliminating the existing curling rink would create more parking and a bigger venue for the popular Saturday morning public market.

There was little talk of cost and time frames were left deliberately vague a crowd of about 70 people were told during the presentation at Red Deer Lodge.

Colleen Jensen, the city’s community services director, called the plan a “vision” of what could happen in the area and alluded to 100-year-old plans that exist for New York’s Central Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park among other landmark green spaces.

“I wouldn’t expect this is a 100-year plan, but we’re probably looking at a 25-year plan,” said Jensen, who did not want to leave anyone with the expectation that it will happen overnight. “But I do want to set the expectation that it will happen.”

Mayor Morris Flewwelling was largely encouraged by the study, which is an offshoot of the Greater Downtown Action Plan, a blueprint to transform the city core into a more vibrant area.

“One word that comes is renewal,” he said of the latest planning vision by a design team comprised of Red Deer’s Group2 Architecture Engineering Ltd. and Michael von Hausen of South Surrey, B.C.-based MVH Urban Planning and Design Inc.

“We sometimes grow complacent with what we have and we don’t see the view with fresh eyes. And that’s what they’ve done here.

“I think the challenge is going to be funding and the scheduling and the implementation.”

The city already has a long-term capital plan that has more than $1 billion worth of projects earmarked, such as a new north-side arena.

“We can’t just say, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to wait.’ That’s going to be the tough part.”

Bob Diewold, president of the Red Deer Silver Sharks Masters Swim Club, wondered how many communities have downtown space available that could be transformed into the kind of park and recreation centre being considered.

“It seems to me to be an opportunity not to be missed.”

Parkvale Community Association’s Dawna Morey issued some words of caution about the plan, which removes a parking lot in front of the Red Deer and District Museum and Art Gallery.

Morey said there is a concern that drawing more people to the area will add to already-existing parking problems if something isn’t done to take that into consideration.

Group2 Architecture’s Craig Webber said the concept plan will now be further refined by incorporating public input, such as the suggestions gathered on comment sheets handed out at the presentation. Preliminary cost estimates and technical reviews will be included in a final report expected to be complete in late November.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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