by Robert Kirwan
Candidate for Council - Ward 5


The City of Greater Sudbury is conducting a review of the Parks, Open Space & Leisure Master Plan which was established in the year 2004.

A survey that was completed by 500 local residents provided some important information and the staff considered input from a series of public open houses during May, one of which was held at the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre on May 13, 2014.

 After reviewing the results of the survey and the public input, staff will present a draft plan to Council on June 16, 2014.

The new Master Plan will provide guidance and direction with respect to parks, recreation and leisure needs of the community for the next twenty years. It is important to get this plan right since it will become the official policy guideline that will bring us closer to our big goals in this area.

If after you read the following report you would like to provide the City with some additional input, send your email to Chris Gore, Manager of Community Partnerships at chris.gore@greatersudbury.ca

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2004 Leisure Master Plan



The chart below provides the data collected from 500 online surveys completed by Greater Sudbury Households. It is important to note that the average number of members in the households was somewhere in the 3.5 range, which indicates that a lot of people with children still living at home completed the survey. This makes the results even more significant. Consider the following points and remember that this part of the survey asked each person to indicate their participation in selected leisure activities during the past 12 months.


1.       Notice that 90% of the participants participated in walking or hiking for leisure during the past 12 months. This is significantly higher than the next popular activity which was outdoor swimming, likely at camp or a public beach., but still 60% of the survey participants indicated that they has gone swimming outdoors. The third most popular activity was cycling or mountain biking. All three of the top activities are things that the entire family can participate in at the same time  and they are all done outdoors. There is little if any cost to take part in the activity.

2.       It is interesting to see that ice sports/skating outdoors was participated in by 51% of the people filling out the survey while only 38% participated in the same activity on indoor ice surfaces. Once again the preference seems to be on skating or playing ice sports outside, likely on neighbourhood playground rinks. Again, this is something the entire family can take part in and there is little or no cost.

3.       When you consider the ranking of the activities, it is clear that most of the people filling out the survey have taken part in many activities that are intended to improve their level of fitness and health and they are also the kinds of activities that they can choose to do whenever they wish and with the entire family. These activities are flexible with respect to schedule and many of them are done outside.

4.       Over half of the people doing the survey wished that they are not able to participate in activities as often as they would like and the two top reasons for not participating was a lack of desired facilities or programs and a lack of personal time. I would suggest that the main reason was likelky a lack of personal time.

5.       When it comes to a comparison of the importance and level of satisfaction of several categories, it is interesting to note that with respect to Trails and Pathways, 91% of the people doing the survey felt the Trails and Pathways were important while only 45% were actually satisfied with the trails and pathways.  This is something that the City should seriously consider when it comes to improving the trails and pathways in the region. If so many people feel that the trails and pathways are important, while half of them feel that they are not satisfied with the trails and pathways, then something must be done to improve the level of satisfaction.

6.       Another interesting point is that 88% of the people feel outdoor leisure facilities such as sports fields, courts and playgrounds are important, but there is only a 50% satisfaction level. Again, this is significant because the outdoor fields and playgrounds are easy to access and can be accessed whenever a person has time. This high ranking in importance and low satisfaction level cannot be allowed to continue. Something must be done to increase the satisfaction level since so many people are actually participating in these venues.

7.       Again, it is important to note that many of the activities are outside, can be adapted to an individual’s schedule, are very low cost to take part in, and can involve the entire family. We are a family –focussed, outdoor-focussed society. This signals a need for a shift in priorities with respect to our long term Master Plan. The need for a large, central multi-purpose complex does not seem to fit with the results of the survey. Nor does it fit with the general trends among all demographics.



The survey found that 86% of those completing the survey felt that investing in parks and leisure services should be a high priority for Council. They were then asked for which parks and leisure facility types they would support spending additional municipal money. The results her were once again significant.



1.       Unpaved nature trails came in at number one with 86% of the people selecting this as something for which they would support spending more municipal money. In fact, the top five items selected were all outdoor facilities, with playgrounds and outdoor rinks included. Clearly the priority among residents of Greater Sudbury is in the area of outdoor activities that can be accessed according to an individual’s schedule and can be enjoyed by the entire family.

2.       Spending more money on arenas ranked in the same grouping as youth centres, outdoor children’s splash pads, senior centres and ski hills. These are all activities that address the needs of very specific interest groups, but still they fall within the category of activities that people can use according to their own personal schedules on a drop-in basis. We have become a society that have such diverse needs and interests that it getting impossible to get everyone together at the same time in any given activity. People have time to participate, but not at the same time.

3.       It seems clear that there is more interest in participation rather than being a spectator and certainly more interest in outdoor activities vs indoor activities. Finally, there is definitely more interest in activities that can be performed during one’s entire life than on those that are reserved mostly for the young.



The Master Plan is going to be developed by taking into consideration the results of the online survey as well as the input from the public sessions. However, the  public contributions are then going to be used together with the research that has been done by City Staff with respect to the Parks and Leisure trends that fall under a number of important categories which have been designated by staff, including demographic shifts, busy lifestyle, facility provision, and healthy communities.

The information that is contained in the following two charts likely gives a good indication of the foundation and fundamental principles that will help form the new Master Plan for the next ten to twenty years. I would like to examine a few of the principles that have not only been identified as trends by  City staff, but which have also been pointed out as high priorities among the 500 people who participated in the online survey. It appears as if both City Staff and the general public are on the same page with respect to the focus of Leisure and Recreation during the next decade.

  1. We do have an aging population that is concerned with wellness activities designed to keep them physically and emotionally fit. There is a move being observed among older adults (50 to 70 years) away from traditional activities that were popular among our current seniors who are somewhat older.
  2. There is an increasing focus on family and social activities, especially those that involve the outdoors and community gatherings.
  3. There is a shift towards activities that do not present financial barriers to participation. More families are opting for the activities where they can involve their children at low or no cost in order to remove the need to limit participation for financial reasons.
  4. Because of the busy lifestyle of most families with both parents working outside of the home, we have been observing a decreased interest in organized sports and a greater emphasis on drop-in, self-scheduled activities for the entire family. One of the reasons for this is because with such a high demand for prime-time activities, most organized sports venues are unable to accommodate the demand and people who still participate in organized activities often have to do so in less desirable times of the evening.
  5. Despite the movement towards outdoor leisure activities, the public also wants indoor options such as walking tracks, swimming pools and fitness facilities that can be used year-round despite the weather.
  6. When it comes to recreation facilities, there is a recognition that our existing facilities are old and in need of major repair, but financially unless there are some partnerships formed with the private sector, it may be impossible to fund the construction of new facilities. Especially since the demand now is for multi-use facilities that are more flexible and meet the specific needs of more people, but are very expensive to build.
  7. There is a great demand for activities that promote healthy living, such as walking trails connecting different destinations and neighbourhood  facilities where people can walk from home to access.
  8. From a budgetary standpoint, municipalities are faced with a conundrum. There is greater focus on financial sustainability and cost recovery, while at the same time the demand is even greater to provide activities that are low to no cost in order to remove the financial barriers to participation. It means that the new Master Plan will need to focus on the provision of facilities that promote activities which can be maintained at low cost and are mainly outdoors. Walking trails, bike paths, swimming beaches, and neighbourhood parks must take on a much higher priority than ever before. There must also be a focus on providing indoor swimming, fitness rooms, and walking tracks. All of this must be done while recognizing the need for cost recovery, but the cost recovery will have to be met from other than the users of the facilities. This means more work with the private sector and also finding a different way of delivering the services.


The Master Plan will be presented to City Council for the first time on June 16, 2014. It is sincerely hoped that there will be at least the summer months for the public to review the new Master Plan proposal. This is going to become the blueprint for the next ten years and it is important that we get it right.




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