INNISFAIL – After a year of study and extensive public engagement, there is a completed dream plan for the future of Dodd’s Lake and it comes with a multi-million-dollar price tag to make it a reality.
Meghan Jenkins, the town’s director of community services, delivered the final 122-page Dodd’s Lake Area Community Recreation Plan report to council at its May 25 regular meeting.
During her brief presentation to council, she outlined the broad strokes of the plan’s intent, which included enhancing the existing areas surrounding the lake, introducing new amenities and providing guidance for future development.
“The plan was largely intended to define acceptable uses for the lake and to create a design for future enhancements of areas surrounding the lake,” said Jenkins, emphasizing the process included extensive consultations with landowners and lake users through two public surveys and online discussion sessions.
She told council that much of the feedback during the first round of public engagement was “generally positive” and that citizens liked everything Dodd’s Lake now has to offer. Jenkins added one big takeaway was “how much a gem Dodd’s Lake is” for the community.
“It is quite unique for a community our size or for a community period to have a water body that is accessible in the way that Dodd’s Lake is. That was a really positive part of the process,” said Jenkins, whose department hired Stantec for the project’s consulting work.
“There were numerous opportunities for that engagement and I think there was progress made on building trust and understanding with area residents.”
With the year-long process now over, the next phase will see if town council -- perhaps a new one following the Oct. 18 general municipal election -- wants to proceed during the fall budget deliberations with the nearly $2.7 million first-phase cost of implementing proposed capital investments in the town-owned southwest shoreline area of the lake.
This area, where the current boat launch is located, calls for its replacement, along with a new parking lot, changes to the boardwalk and several new amenities, including a grassed beach, shelter, washrooms, paved parking lot, seating wall, tables and benches and a playground. The overall cost also includes a $900,000 price tag for roadway surface work along 56th Street.
There is a second but smaller and less expensive proposal for the southeast area; a green space, also town-owned, nestled in an established neighbourhood. The plan is for minor amenity enhancements to be enjoyed by adjacent residents. The estimated cost is about $132,000.
There are other areas on the north side of the lake also earmarked for future capital investments but these will likely be deferred well into the future as they’re dependent on future residential development. The combined projected cost for the north and northwest areas is just over $950,000.
Mayor Jim Romane said he was pleased with the work that staff and project consultant Stantec did on the Dodd’s Lake recreation plan but as far as the big price tag to implement recommended improvements he did note the intent is for a phased-in strategy over a number of years.
“It won’t be all at once. We will have to decide how much we think we can afford in 2022 in the first phase,” said Romane, adding he’s not sure if the $2.7 million cost for the first phase is reasonable to move forward at this time with provincial and federal granting opportunities being squeezed tight by COVID-19 pandemic expenditures. “All we can do now is that we have the numbers to work with, and we just have to decide how much we can afford, and when we can afford it.
“That decision hasn’t been made but we have a master plan to works towards now,” he added. “It will depend on this year’s (provincial) MSI grants and all that stuff too.”