Additional park shelters could be added to parks and sports fields as the Chestermere City Council directed administration to present proposed shelter locations at the May 12 Committee of the Whole Meeting.
“We’re talking about gatherings, and social events, it’s not really applicable right now during this pandemic, but I would assume that these things will become relevant again soon,” said the Open Spaces Planning and Projects Community Operations Coordinator, Carly Davies.
“Shelters are beneficial, they provide shelter from the elements, the sun, they promote people to gather socially, and they broaden the audience for sports, art, and cultural events,” she added. “They also provide a destination. People can meet and gather at the shelter itself.”
There are currently 11 shelters, including gazebos, shade sails, and picnic shelters, with the majority being the northeast in the City of Chestermere
“These are mostly the wood gazebo style structures, a lot of them are considered to be almost at the end of their life cycle,” Davies said.
“Shade sails are another form of structure that we actually have in the city now. They are seasonal, and they do require annual maintenance set up and storage,” she said.
When installing a shelter, there are factors to consider such as finding a location to host large events, the initial costs, and the amount of maintenance required.
“Potential locations, universally accessible sites are a must for public shelters, the ideal locations would be parks or school sites next to large sports fields,” Davies said.
The future locations for park shelters within the city boundaries include Sunset Park, Anniversary Park, and John Peake Park.
Administration is also currently investigating a shared approach with school boards for the placement of Joint Use Sites park shelters.
“With the majority of existing shelters residing in the north end of the city, identifying spaces in all quadrants would be ideal. Schools are specifically spread out within each community and have at least four acres of land and are located with the adjacent residents in mind,” Davies said.
“Neighbourhood gatherings held at park shelters would typically not be held during regular school hours. The school could also use them as outdoor classrooms, lunch and play spaces,” she said.
The Bridgeport, Dawson’s Landing, and Waterford developers outline plans also include park shelters in the community.
The benefits of having a park shelter include promoting socialization and civic engagement, while inviting residents to be involved in recreational use in winter months, Davies said.
She added, the disadvantages are finding existing areas or enough space to host a larger shelter within the existing open spaces, maintenance, and the initial installation costs.
The cost for park shelters, not including furniture, concrete, landscaping, or permits, ranges from $50,000 to $325,000 depending on the size of the shelter.
There are many options for possible funding including, requesting additional shelters through the development process in future open spaces that could provide the amenity with no upfront cost to the city.
“Opportunities may exist in high profile and high traffic areas such as Anniversary Park. However, as part of the exploratory work on the street furniture sponsorship program, it was discovered that park shelters are not typically included in the inventory of sponsorship options,” Davies said.
Grant opportunities are available as an additional source of funding, along with the city partnering with schools on park shelters, despite not typically being a school amenity.
However, new park shelters could potentially impact other community projects.
“Booking out shelters, as an option, if approved, the impact on staff could increase, consequently changing the fee schedule for operational consequences as well as capital budget recovery,” Davies said.
Adding, “The picnic area in Sunset Park currently has some drainage issues. As a recommended site, the construction could coincide with the need to repair the park’s drainage surrounding the picnic area.”