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Editorial: City council heeded public's frustration on walking track

An opinion piece on Estevan council's decision on the walking track regulations.
Indoor walking track at Affinity Place in Estevan.

Over the past couple of weeks, members of Estevan city council have been receiving all sorts of feedback regarding the policy for the walking track at Affinity Place.

It reached the point that council voted Monday night to repeal the policy, only two weeks after it was enacted. The city will go with the walking track’s previous rules, which were nowhere near as onerous, send the new policy back to city staff, gather feedback in the coming months and take a look at the policy again later in the year. (The fall was bandied about as a potential target date).

Kudos to the members of the community who approached council through the appropriate channels. They called  council members. They talked to city staff. Four people submitted letters for Monday night’s meeting. You might disagree with these people’s arguments, but at least they didn’t take the wrong route and merely gripe on social media.

Councillors Shelly Veroba and Tony Sernick said virtually all of their council-related calls in the past couple of weeks were due to the walking track policy. And it’s worth noting that Veroba was opposed to the policy.

It showed just how many people use the walking track for a variety of reasons. But the battle for those opposed to the policy isn’t over.

City council says it wants your opinions. It will have surveys, both in paper form and online. If you took the time to voice your thoughts through an appropriate channel in the past couple of weeks, we hope you’ll take the time to respond to the survey.

If you are opposed to the policy, let the city know. If you’re in favour of it, express your thoughts. If you have ideas for the next policy, share them. Hopefully, this survey will be as open-ended as possible so people can adequately share their thoughts.

If you don’t speak up on this one, then you shouldn’t complain once the policy is brought back to council for approval later this year.

The walking track is a great amenity for Affinity Place. For starters, it’s free. And it’s accessible. It’s centrally located. It can be used by virtually everyone. It’s perfect for seniors. Want a nice easy walk to burn off calories when it’s -20 C outside and there’s a bitterly cold wind? Go to the walking track.

And it’s not just seniors who use it. You’ll see mothers walking around the track with their strollers. You’ll see people jogging, using both the track and the stairs for some added intensity. And you’ll see teams enjoying dryland exercise in the areas around the track.

We’ll see what comes of this. Will the city decide to forego the policy for good? Perhaps. But it’s more likely it will opt for an amended document, one that doesn’t have blackout periods for minor hockey dryland during the late afternoons and evenings, and perhaps one that isn’t so restrictive.

Hopefully, the next policy will also be a little more specific. There was going to be confusion on whether the full concourse area was part of the walking track. Will objects like free weights, mats and skipping ropes still be banned? How is the city going to enforce this policy?

Will there be a city employee stationed at the walking track during quiet times to ensure people aren’t sprinting?

It would have been good if council would have gone through this process before approving the policy, but that’s a lesson learned for next time.

This does not mean council needs to go through the process of public consultation for every policy it enacts. Some of their policies are internal in nature. Could you imagine if they would have gone through public consultation for the employee social media policy?

But when it comes to the walking track at Affinity Place, consultation is absolutely necessary because of the track’s value to the community.

And it’s imperative that the public take advantage of this opportunity and others when they are presented.

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