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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Residents comment on developing Community Services Master Plan

- the document will guide the Town of Essex

on recreation and parks for the next decade -


by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Residents had a chance to comment on the developing Town of Essex Community Services Master Plan last Wednesday evening. A Public Open House was held at the Harrow Arena to discuss the strategic document that studies the existing park system and recreation programming, and sets out action plans to make improvements.

This document will develop a long-term vision for the Town’s park and recreation system, and set out specific policies and standards to direct day-to-day decisions.

It creates a “pathway to vision what goals we’re to accomplish,” Jake Morassut said, who is the Director of Community Services for the Town of Essex.

The new Community Services Master Plan will guide the Town in regards to parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and recreation facilities over the next decade or so, and prepare those needs and wants for future Town of Essex budgets, Morassut added.

“We are really looking at getting the consolidated data where there are common themes,” he said of the need to connect with the community. Having a plan not only helps to determine what is wanted or needed in the community in terms of parks and recreation, it further helps from a funding perspective. Having a plan helps the Town create opportunities to offer naming rights or find alternative funding sources, like partnering with a group which is willing to fundraise or applying for grants to get projects completed.

This document will update the 2015 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Most of the goals laid out in the 2015 documents were accomplished.

Throughout the process of creating the document, staff with the Community Services department have encouraged public feedback. Back in January, the Town hosted a survey in which residents and facility-users were able to weigh in.

So far, survey results noted that 70 percent of the general public frequent trails and paths, 80 percent of the general public are satisfied/very satisfied with parks and trails, 56 percent of the general public are somewhat satisfied with the indoor facilities, 80 percent of older adults believe there are somewhat or definitely not enough indoor and outdoor spaces and activities, and 61 percent of youths believe there are not enough outdoor spaces.

One of the biggest trends noticed so far, Morassut said, regards trails. With COVID lockdowns previously, Morassut noted individuals noticed the value of having walking trails and park spaces.

Feedback received from the public, stakeholders, municipal staff, and Council members are being compiled into the new Community Services Master Plan.

The Town has brought on a consulting firm – Stantec – to provide a broader scope and suggestions as specialists in the field to help develop a draft plan. It is being developed in three stages: with the first stage being background research, the second being strategic direction, and the third being for establishing an action plan, implementation, and monitoring.

The project is currently nearing the end of the third phase.

Morassut noted that there are 106 recommendations with the developing Master Plan, based on the comparative analysis from other similar-sized municipalities, feedback garnered through staff, public, and Council surveys.

All the recommendations can be viewed at: essex.ca/en/town-hall/resources/CSMP_Recommendations_2023.pdf

The Open House was meant to gather further public feedback, before the draft document is presented to Council on November 20 during a special meeting. After that, Council will consider its adoption and implementation.

He thanked all those who have provided input into the Community Services Open House to date, and noted they are listening and trying to take suggestions into consideration.

Residents can still weigh in through www.essex.ca/en/town-hall/community-services-master-plan.aspx. The public feedback period closes November 5, 2023.

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