Sandy Casselman 
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

EMBRUN – The township of Russell’s Recreation Complex project is on schedule and on budget.

“I’m pleased to reach another milestone today. It’s the update we’ve been waiting for because we will be able to look at the results from the survey that was conducted back in March,” director of parks and recreation Céline Guitard said during the May 3 council meeting.

In addition to the 45 pages of information from background history, status updates, survey results, and meeting/consultation minutes included in the night’s agenda package, Guitard introduced Colliers project leaders representatives who provided a presentation and answered questions.

“We are on track for Phase 1 and 2. Right now, we’re at the tail end of the design of the park and the courts and that’s submitted for site plan review this week, so we’ll be going through those exercises to make sure we get site plan approval and continue on with the further procurement of some other pieces of that project,” Colliers’ senior project manager Scott O’Hearn said. “For Phase 2, which is probably the main topic of this presentation, we have completed our public consultation.”

In addition to conducting a survey for Phase 1, an Environmental Impact Study, and Geotechnical Investigations, Colliers has completed the community consultation, issued expressions of interest for local contractors and businesses, and hired the prime consultant for Phases 1 and 2. They are also coordinating and collecting comparable operational costs data, O’Hearn said, noting he has already heard from several interested contractors.

“Today we have brought on the architect and their team with landscape designers and mechanical electrical engineers who have been completing the drawings for Phase 1,” O’Hearn said. “The same architect will be completing the schematic design for the facility based off the community feedback we’ve received to date, so we can have more of a visual tool to proceed with decision making later on.”

O’Hearn’s presentation included a graphic of the layout for the playground, courts, and parking. Councillor André Brisson noted only two parking spots reserved for handicapped individuals and suggested there should be more considering the goal is a fully accessible park. O’Hearn also presented photos of comparable examples of junior playgrounds and senior exercise equipment, all accessible, to be included in the park. He said the group is preparing a pre-purchase Request for Proposal (RFP) for the equipment to avoid any potential time delays.

Councillor Jamie Laurin said he had an issue with the wood mulch base surface. He said this base had been replaced with sand at another park. Guitard said this base is different, but she will confer with Colliers about the potential of a popular rubber product base, which would be better but more expensive. CEO Jean Leduc confirmed that the base will be a hard surface like the rubber product Guitard had mentioned.

Mayor Pierre Leroux mentioned L’Original’s Sacha’s Park and said he anticipated the Jonathan Pitre Accessible Park to be similar. He said he would like to look beyond the minimum standards and provide something better with higher standards.

“We’re moving along fairly well. I’m excited to get things starting on the site,” O’Hearn said.

The Phase 2 Community Feedback included consultations with more than 45 user groups, as well as two public consultation meetings. More than 1,000 people completed the questionnaire. Community feedback showed that residents’ key interests are in a pool, multiple arenas, a gymnasium with a stage and seating, and storage, all with a focus on accessibility and sustainability. Feedback showed that for most responders, a pool was the highest priority.

O’Hearn said next steps for Phase 1 include completing the site plan review, pre-purchasing playground equipment, and issuing a general contractor RFP. Next steps for Phase 2 include completing the first draft of the facility schematic design and beginning high level operational cost modelling.

Leroux requested that O’Hearn’s PowerPoint presentation be added to the municipal website under the Recreation Complex Project so residents can look it over if they wish to do so.

“I just want to make sure everybody has access to the documents,” Leroux said, adding that he would like the presentation forwarded to council, as well.

Echoing Leroux’s earlier comment, Coun. Mike Tarnowski asked for confirmation that the park, facilities, and parking would all meet the highest standard for accessibility. Guitard said staff has consulted with the township’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. Laurin referred to Brisson’s comments about accessible parking spots, noting that he would like to see more spots available, as well. Leroux agreed, noting that the park may draw more families with children who have accessibility needs to move into the area, as this seems to be the case near Sacha’s Park.

“The thing that jumped out at me was the fact that over 45 groups participated, which was fantastic, but there was also about 20 to 25 who did not participate, and I found that a little bit unfortunate that all these user groups did not participate. I was hoping for much more public feedback,” Leroux said. “We’re looking at the biggest project in Russell Township history, therefore I think that more participation would have been better.”