At times it is astonishing to me to think how Fort McMurray has changed in just the twelve years I have been here.
When I arrived entire neighbourhoods that are now fully functional were not even cleared fields. MacDonald Island Park was just a small recreation centre, Shell Place wasn't even a dream anyone had envisioned yet, and the thought of a recreation centre on the north side of the community was something people weren't even talking about - but how things have changed.
MacDonald Island Park became part of my life here very quickly, as even back then it was the hub of activity for the Intrepid Junior Blogger and her skating lessons. I watched as it grew with the expansion and became not just the hub, but the heart, of the community. I was part of the engagement process for Shell Place, then known as MIPEX, and I sat in many sessions as we talked about the future of the facility, and what the community wanted to see happen on the land that holds the Suncor Community Leisure Centre, Miskanaw Golf Club, and so much more. I was there when the expansion plan that has now become Shell Place was approved by mayor and council, sitting there in chambers as a community member.
And in the last year or so I began a new era of my life here when I joined the team at MacDonald Island Park and was part of the transition from MIP to the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo. I have been part of transitioning Mi Team, that proud group of employees, into ONE Team, a group that I think is even prouder and even stronger. I have been part of watching Shell Place come to life, mostly in awe in recent months as I see the plans I once viewed on paper take shape in reality and beginning to realize what it will mean for my community. I have been part of opening a new recreation centre in Anzac, and realized how a recreation centre can impact a community, and particularly its youth. And I have been involved in the talk around a recreation centre on the north side of Fort McMurray.
I reside on the north side, in fact, just as the bulk of our population now does. I have seen the areas here grow rapidly, residential neighbourhoods springing up and the infrastructure often struggling to keep pace. I have seen schools built and filled, repeatedly, and a birth rate skyrocket as our young demographic builds their families. I have seen a lot of change, and one of the changes now being discussed is the possibility of a recreation centre located on the north side to serve our residents.
Abram's Land, the parcel of land across from Dickinsfield, is the site for the proposed recreation centre. The engagement process began shortly after I began working with MI Team, and has been going on for the last year. It has already been through two rounds, and is now in the third round. The level of conversation and interest has been nothing short of amazing, especially for me as a community member who recalls the days when MIP was a rink, some curling sheets, a golf course and not much else. I have been honoured to be part of the process, but the process is ongoing and it still needs something.
It needs you.
You see, there is an online presentation and survey about the proposed Northside Community Recreation Centre, and it is just waiting for your input. Just as with Shell Place this is a community-driven process, with members of our community directing what this recreation centre will contain and how it will serve us. Your input isn't just important - it's vital, because this recreation centre belongs to all of us as residents. It is, and should be, our choice.
I have now been on both sides of this particular process, and it remains as fascinating and intriguing as ever. My favourite moments have been the conversations, both before I did community engagement as part of my job and now. I have learned so much along the way, and I have had the opportunity to find out what matters to the people who share this community with me.
The conversation on the proposed Northside Community Recreation Centre is ongoing. This is your opportunity to be part of the discussion, and to direct the future of this community. There are no right and wrong answers, because it is all about what we as a community want to see, and what we believe matters. What I do know, though, is that having an opportunity to be part of the process matters, because I have done it now from both sides and I see how crucial it is.
So, if you are a resident of Fort McMurray and haven't done so yet I encourage you to please visit the website and fill out the survey. Fort McMurray is changing, and in this case you have the opportunity to determine how it will change. This is your chance to have your say in the future of our community - please use it!