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Westlock County releases draft design standards document

Guide outlines the standards for everything from picnic tables, to fences at county-owned properties
Westlock County has released a draft Parks and Open Spaces Standards guide, a 94-page document that covers the standards for everything from signage at the county’s parks, campgrounds, and municipal and environmental reserves, to how fences, picnic tables, benches and garbage bins should look.

WESTLOCK – Westlock County councillors have gotten a first look at the municipality’s first-ever Parks and Open Spaces Standards guide, a 94-page document that will provide a template for “the development and upgrading of future and existing facilities and open spaces, including community parks” and “allow for clarity on budget preparations and project planning.”

Councillors spent close to 30 minutes at their May 16 committee of the whole meeting going over the draft document which includes everything from signage guidelines for parks, campgrounds, and municipal and environmental reserves, to how fences, picnic tables, benches and garbage bins should look.

The municipality currently operates the Long Island Lake campground as well as Rainbow Park, just east of the Town of Westlock, along with community parks such as the Vimy and Pickardville playgrounds and “numerous local parks and special-use areas.”

The briefing to council further notes that there are “numerous parcels” of undeveloped lands that are held as municipal and environmental reserves, water treatment facilities, and storm water management facilities owned by the county and the reserve lands have the potential to provide “future recreational services” or act as open spaces for environmental stewardship.

A list of acceptable trees and plant life is also included in the guide, as is a standard for an outdoor skating rink, volleyball court and horseshoe pit. The document also includes the design standard for washrooms, an issue that came up in April after councillors rejected a proposed $98,258 replacement of one of the Long Island Lake outhouses — recalling that debate, reeve Christine Wiese said the short-term pain, via the high cost, would have been offset by the long-term gain of a more-permanent, “good quality” structure.

“It was evident to me (following that debate) that we needed a base starting document and I think we’re getting close to having that established,” said CAO Tony Kulbisky.

Community services coordinator Adrienne Finnegan, who said work on the document actually began in late 2022, told councillors they were now looking for “feedback and direction” — Kulbisky said in a follow-up interview he expects additional tweaks to the document before it comes back for approval this summer.

“Due to the cost of the proposed outhouse replacement at Long Island, we felt that at this time it is more important for us to look at our guidelines and how we want to see Westlock County amenities looking before we start presenting other options,” Finnegan said.

“This is a level-of-service document we’re talking about. We can’t pretend to know seven different thoughts in terms of what council wants, so if council adopts or gets closer to adopting a guide document like this, then we can bring forward budget documents in the future that are basically tied to this level of service,” added Kulbisky. “Once we have consistency and we’re all on the same page, it makes it so much easier going forward. But we need council to give us direction on what you’re comfortable with.”

Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson called the standards “important for us” but also questioned whether some “would be applicable to Westlock County.” But he, along with the rest of council, thanked administration as “it’s clear a lot of work has gone into producing this” while Wiese said the document “was transparent” and the diagrams detailing the designs were especially helpful.

“I do think it’s important that we standardize. But there’s a lot of data here and I don’t know that I’ve had enough time to go through all of it,” said Fox-Robinson, noting the document was only accepted as information at the meeting. “So, I would encourage my colleagues to review this in detail and I think that further discussion will be important.”

Kulbisky admitted that once the document is finalized, administration will come back with “an action plan that county council can afford.” He also told councillors that “life-cycle costing” will also be added “to help make council make an informed decision at that point.”

“It’s not something that we’re going to rush and do in one year because that would cost a lot of money. But if we have a standard, then we provide the game plan to get us to that standard over time,” said Kulbisky. “We’ll come up with a three-to-four-year plan that gets us to a certain level.”

Fox-Robinson agreed with Kulbisky that by creating a standard, the only question councillors will need to answer is the funding. Calling Long Island Lake “a jewel”, Fox-Robinson said these guidelines would probably roll out there initially and envisions that “every year we chip off one more project.”

“The reality is that with the standardization across the board, then we just have to apply a budget to it. It will be easier for us, our residents and administration,” said Fox-Robinson.

“I think it’s a great idea. But I don’t think we want to take too long to dwell on it,” added deputy-reeve Ray Marquette.

George Blais,

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