At the most recent Rocky View County council meeting, council approved a proposal that will now allow for Springbank community groups to access the Springbank Recreation Reserve in order to fund the development of the community event centre in Springbank.
Back in the Spring of 2020, the County signed an agreement with the Alberta government that compensated the County for municipal tax revenue that had been lost due to the completion of the Springbank Reservoir Project (SR-1). In August of 2021, the provincial government transferred $10 million to the County, which was then placed in the Springbank Recreation Reserve.
Since then, the money has sat in the reserve, largely untouched and unused. About $2 million was spent by the County in 2022 to pay for around 75 acres of land adjacent to Springbank Park for All Seasons, land that was then designated for the construction of a future community and recreation facility.
The new policy, which was passed unanimously by council, now gives the County and Springbank community members a formalized process to request the use of money in the reserve. There was such no formalized process before, hence why the money has not been used since the initial land purchase.
The policy states that “non-profit community organizations and the County may access funds from the [reserve] for the community event centre,” and that “the funds held in the reserve will be allocated to its development.”
In a policy statement, the County said it “encourages and supports partnership opportunities that enhance the quality of life for county residents.”
The issue of the Springbank Recreation Reserve was originally broached in a meeting of the Recreation Governance Committee (RGC) back in September. RVC Division 1 Coun. Kevin Hanson moved that the proposed policy be referred back to a formal council meeting in order for it to be voted upon.
At that RGC meeting, Karin Hunter, the Springbank Community Association president, said that residents were not pleased with the lack of information given to them throughout the consultation process
“The project is in dire need of course correction,” said Hunter at the Sept. 26 meeting. “In our view, this is a missed opportunity for meaningful community engagement.”
Hunter said the Community Associations problems with the proposed policy that was approved by council is both where the money is going to be spent and how it's going to be spent.
“We believe it would have been much better to have a more broad mandate for the use of the money,” she said. “We had recommended removing reference to the community event centre [from the policy].”
Council seems to have disregarded these concerns while passing its motion at the Nov. 14 meeting. In the first sentence of the Springbank Recreation Funding policy purpose, it states that “Springbank Recreation Funding establishes eligibility for community groups to access the Springbank Recreation Reserve to develop the community event centre…”
“To limit the funds just to the community event centre is the worst possible outcome,” Hunter recently told the Rocky View Weekly.
According to Hunter, the community association offered to sit with county administration in order to brainstorm and talk about some options for how to move forward on this issue. The association forwarded the results of community surveys to County administration, hoping that the expressed concerns of the community would stop council from moving forward with these specific plans.
“They just ignored it all,” said Hunter. “We’re just incredibly disappointed with our representation from our councillors, who knew that we had concerns about this one policy.”
At the Nov. 14 council meeting, the community associations' concerns were not brought up, nor was there any meaningful debate between the councillors about the policy. The only question in regards to the policy’s content was brought up by RVC Deputy Reeve and Division 2 Coun. Don Kochan, who represents Springbank.
“If, in five months' time, a better policy comes to light, are we bound to this policy for any set term or can we revisit this?'' asked Kochan.
Adriane Cairns, the community projects coordinator for the County, confirmed that the County would not be bound to the policy for any set time and it could be revisited, if council so desired.
This statement did nothing to soothe Hunter and community association’s ire.
“I feel like a mosquito flying around,” Hunter said. “As a community association that is trying to represent this community you have volunteers who put in a lot of hours doing research, writing letters, reaching out and talking to people…[it] all just goes nowhere.”
“Until [RVC] has a wholesale change in how they deal with communities, I think anything we do will all just go in the recycle bin of the county,” she added.