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Committee approves $250K for southwest Calgary outdoor activity hub

Two southwest Calgary communities took the first steps toward an outdoor recreation boost, but it put the city’s funding process under the microscope.

The Coach Hill / Patterson Heights Community Association (CHPH) applied for $250,000 from the Council Community Fund to support Phase 2 of their outdoor activity hub. The project is touted as a multi-use, multi-season facility that’s free for all visitors.

Phase 2 of the project design shows a multi-season sport court and an outdoor gathering area with tables, a fire pit and a seating area. The Phase 1 community garden is already underway, slated for completion this fall.  Phase 3 envisions a natural playground.

CHPH vice president Talena Klypak said there are no city recreation facilities west of Sarcee Trail. The admin report said there are none north of Bow Trail.

“It’s a lot of money, and it’s absolutely essential for our project,” Klypak told councillors at Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting.

Klypak said securing this funding allows them to access cash from other orders of government and the private sector.

She also said they received money from the nearby West Spring / Cougar Ridge board because the facility will help service those communities. Within the four communities, Klypak said the hub will serve 25,000 residents.

“This recreational space will be vital for mental health resiliency through fostering community bonds,” she said.

CHPH communications director Voula Martin also said they were incorporating universal design elements without even knowing it. They wanted wider paths, multiple access points and no tripping hazards.

“We just had a genuine desire to make this a space that was healing and flexible and usable by folks with diverse abilities,” she said.

“And most of all, we wanted to make sure that we could adapt it for the changing needs of the community.”

Funding inequity?

The project has been in the works for five years and comes with a total budget of $706,000.

Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong said there are many parts of Calgary with no community associations, centres or rec facilities.

“This is not unique. This is kind of normal around the rest of the city as well,” he said.

“I guess the question is, why should we put money into this one instead of a community center… Oh, say in the South Central or in the North Central or anywhere else?”

The response was straightforward: We’re asking, the group said.

RELATED: Hawkwood welcomes public to new outdoor recreation facility

But, with a limited pool of funds available ($285,000), other councillors were worried this request would essentially deplete it.  Admin said they are requesting more funds as part of the 2023 to 2026 budget.

Coun. Andre Chabot said there are many community associations in his ward that could make use of this type of funding. He said they need a clear path on how they can support other communities in this manner.

“It’s difficult for us as a council to support an application for a single community when there are so many communities throughout the city that have similar needs and wants,” he said.

Other councillors also suggested there should be a better process to look at supporting all communities.

Flawed process, good proposal

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian was torn on the issue. On one hand she wanted to support the work the community association had done but felt they should make investment decisions for the whole city. She said this somewhat circumvented that process.

“If my community associations knew that they could come and pitch us like this, they would all be in line,” she said.

“For some people who will be watching and thinking, ‘Hey, I didn’t even know we could do that and now all the money’s gone.’”

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said while there may be flaws in the current process around equitable investments, this project met the requirements for funding.

“In the framework that exists I can happily support this application because it meets all the criteria because the community is ready,” she said.

“They have done their work.”

In the end, committee voted 11-1 to send the funding request to the full meeting of Calgary city council on July 26. It will be on the consent agenda.