Georgian Bluffs developing recreation and trails plan

The Georgian Bluffs multi-use recreational trail on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 in Owen Sound, Ont. Rob Gowan/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network Rob Gowan / Rob Gowan/Sun Times

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Georgian Bluffs is formulating a plan for its parks, recreational facilities and trails over the next 10 years.

The municipality is preparing its first Recreation and Trails Master Plan, which will provide direction for its recreational assets over the next decade.

An open house is slated for Oct. 15 to provide the public with information and for the municipality and its consultants to receive input. The open house runs from 6 to 8 p.m. in the newly renovated hall at the Shallow Lake Community Centre.

“We have never had a rec and trail master plan in the past,” said Georgian Bluffs director of operations and CAO Rick Winters.

“Council has really recognized that we have recreation facilities that are underutilized and they have never gone up for consultation of what to use our facilities for and what services should we or should we not be providing.”

Georgian Bluffs currently operates the Shallow Lake Community Centre, its lone facility with artificial ice, as well as the Derby Community Centre in Kilsyth and Kemble Community Centre, both of which once offered natural ice, but are now underutilized as the demographic in the community has changed, Winters explained.

“We just wonder what we should be using those facilities for,” he said. “One of the things the consultant will do is look at the change in the demographics, and the trends throughout Ontario, and what we have now and what we should be preparing ourselves for in the future.”

The plan will also look at the cost associated with offering uses and services at the township’s facilities and what kind of user fees may need to be implemented to make them sustainable.

Winters said the plan will also look at trails and the uses permitted on them, including the approximately 15.8-kilometre Georgian Bluffs Trail on the former CN Rail Line in the municipality.

“We have a multi-use trail that runs from Owen Sound to Park Head and we are starting to get a little comment back from the public that maybe multi-use isn’t the way to go. There is some conflict from time to time.”

Winters said community input is an important part of formulating the plan.

Among the questions being asked by the township are, what are the best things about the parks, recreation and trails in the municipality, how can current facilities and services be improved and what are the highest priorities for parks, recreation and trails in the municipality.

Along with the open house, residents can also share their ideas through an online survey, via e-mail or at the township’s facilities.

The survey, which will provide details about community usage and preferences, is available until Oct. 31 at .

Written comments can be sent to

The consultants drafting the plan are Monteith Brown Planning Consultants out of London, Ont., who Winters said have undertaken similar plans in neighbouring municipalities.

“To us that is a bonus because they understand some of the trends that are existing around us as well,” Winters said.

The process has been going now for about a month and the consultants have been doing some background work, including meeting with staff and touring the municipality and facilities. Winters explained that the open house and community input will really determine the direction of the plan.

After input is received, draft recommendations will be drawn up and brought to council. If council is in favour of the recommendations, that will formalize the final document, with the municipality hoping for the process to be wrapped up early in the new year, to coincide with its budget process for 2020.