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Council looking to increase recreation opportunities during winter months

Council looking to increase recreation opportunities during winter months
A pair of Prince Albert residents slide down a hill at Little Red RIver Park in this file photo from Dec. 31, 2016. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Prince Albert city council has asked each municipal department to bring forward their best ideas to create recreation opportunities for families, children and seniors while following pandemic guidelines.

The motion passed unanimously at Monday’s council meeting. It calls on all departments, from fire to finance, to come up with innovative ideas for improving the quality of life in Prince Albert during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski spearheaded the idea. He said residents have a real need to connect, and COVID-19 has limited those opportunities. He’s hoping city administrators can come up with some creative ideas to get people out in the community, while still abiding by the province’s public health orders.

“This year, more than any other year, I don’t think we should just hope to get through it,” Zurakowski said during an interview on Tuesday. “I think we need to work to get through it, and (look at) what we can do for our community, and the families in there, that will make this winter more bearable.”

Zurakowski said he’d like to see the city create a number of temporary outdoor skating rinks to supplement those maintained by the various community clubs. He also hopes to see clean snow removed from little used residential streets and dumped in city parks to create sliding hills.

The goal is to create enough recreation locations to allow small groups to stay active throughout the city, instead of having large groups of residents descend on one or two areas.

Zurakowski, who works as a teacher in Prince Albert, decided to bring the motion forward after talking with some of his students. He said temporarily shutting down schools has hindered their ability to connect with friends and have a social life. That’s a challenge he’s noticed with other groups as well, like seniors, which showed him something needed to be done.

“I’ve seen up close the effects this pandemic is having on families and on our youth,” he said. “I have seen some of the creativity that local people have brought to that conversation and their efforts to bring some cheer to the community. I know cities are responsible for sanitation and clean water and pipes in the ground, those essential things, but I think … we need to look at ways to be more active and creative for our residents.”

“I think it’s (about) mental health,” he added. “It’s all about connections, and (asking) if we can’t make those connections in a physically appropriate way, then how else can we make them?”

Mayor Greg Dionne and the rest of city council gave Zurakowski’s motion unanimous support at Monday’s meeting. Dionne said there’s still a strong demand for outdoor recreation activities this winter, and it’s only going to increase during the Christmas holidays.

“I must know 10 or 12 people who have built outdoor rinks that never have before so their kids will have something to do,” he said during the meeting.

The motion gives the city manager power to implement any new ideas immediately, provided they come at a reasonable cost. Ideas with more expensive price tags will be presented at the first regular council meeting in January, or during budget deliberations.

Zurakowski said he hopes plans with little to no cost can but implemented by Christmas. He’s happy to debate more expensive proposals in the New Year.

“Some of these things don’t cost money and some things do,” he said. “If it costs money, let’s make that decision and move ahead. Things that take time and effort, let’s move on those tomorrow.”

The City is also looking for potential partners or sponsors who could help provide additional recreation opportunities.

Zurakowski encouraged residents with ideas of their own to share them with their city councillor.