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Roche Percee Park development plan rolling out quickly

The ideas came quickly so it was obvious that those attending the Roche Percee Park strategic planning meeting on Saturday had spent some time thinking about what the newly resurrected park should be in the short term and further into the future.
Lori Dunford, co-chairwoman of the Roche Percee Community Recreation Association, with her son Alex, enjoyed her chat with South East Tours and Trails chairwoman Mary Rose Boyer just prior to the start of the Roche Percee Park strategic planning meeting on Saturday.

The ideas came quickly so it was obvious that those attending the Roche Percee Park strategic planning meeting on Saturday had spent some time thinking about what the newly resurrected park should be in the short term and further into the future.

About 20 people made their way to the Roche Percee Community Hall for the five-hour planning session that was led by local parks and recreation co-chair, Lori Dunford and Mary Rose Boyer, chairwoman of the South East Tours and Trails committee.

Tours and Trails had provided the impetus for the nearby park's revival as a potential destination spot for tired travellers who might want to park an RV or pitch a tent overnight. The park, it was suggested would serve as well for those in the nearby communities who would want to use the site, located in the valley, for picnics, family reunions, wedding receptions or some other community function or as a start and finish point for field trips.

While volunteer organizer Vicki East gobbled up the wants and needs lists in a computer, the ideas continued to flow. Most of the suggestions were modest in nature since the attending delegates understood that the park's resources would have to be limited at the outset since next spring will just be its second year of the resurrection.

Dunford said the local committee has already gained nearly $9,000 in provincial grant funding to help the second stage of development and last year's start-up exceeded ministry and community expectations, so attaining a second-round of funding support should not be an issue.

"But what does the community want? That's what we're here to find out," she told the gathering.

The local community parks and recreation team is willing to expand their horizons to take on the nearby Roche Percee valley park which comes in at about 60 acres of land nestled into a serene well treed setting.

"South East Tours and Trails got it going, but we're not in the business of running parks," said Boyer, in explaining how the group she represents is poised to take a half-step back by relinquishing the day-to-day operations of the new park, while still maintaining a vested interest in the outcome since the park could fit nicely into their plans.

So the ideas of developments for parking spaces for recreational vehicles and trailers were coupled with concepts for more modest spaces for simple tents and short-stay visitors.

"We can talk about separate areas because this isn't just Roche Percee and Bienfait's park, it's for everyone," said Dunford.

An outdoor education centre or interpretive centre concepts were also forwarded as ideas to be put into the bank for future discussion when expansion plans are proposed.

In the immediate future, the park holds promise as a bird watching and bird spotting retreat as well as a fine source for berry picking and family- orientated nature trail walks.

"We have a budget in place and fund-raising ideas are coming in, so that part of it looks fine for now," said Boyer.

"It's about what are we going to see now and where are we going to be in two years that we need to get at today," said Dunford.

With the desire to grow also comes the need to provide staff and security measures, the two reminded the delegates.

Boyer said before the plans went too far, there needed to be more clarification as to what services could be offered since the current plan approved by the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sports suggests that the park currently holds a "non-service" definition. She said some limited electrical services could be provided for starters and as the park grew, such things as powered sites, refuse dump and potable water could be added.

The park already has a well with good water available if required.

Boyer said S.E. Tours and Trails currently holds the funds for the Roche Percee Park in a separate bank account.

"If we can accomplish the vision statement here, it would be important because it can then dictate the grants that are applied for in the future and the type of organization that will have to be set up to operate it," said Boyer.

Those attending the session agreed unanimously that modest camping sites be established soon, since there are already some sites available for use.

A picnic area was agreed on as were projects to make the park friendlier toward family, school and community events.

The idea of welcoming and informational signage was also advanced for the must-do list as was the desire for installation of some playground equipment that would interest the youngest park users.

The group agreed that parking spaces for larger recreational units could be provided in the near future, but not at the expense of the existing tree lines or natural growth.

Fire pits, the dump station and tent sites were also put on the short term to-do list.

Those attending also agreed that there would be little resistance to the establishment of self-guided tours that could be accommodated with well appointed signs and/or pamphlets and could include visits to the nearby historical Taylorton community and cemetery.

The following Monday, Dunford said that "we'll know the direction we'll be taking within a week or two. The next step is to develop our business plan. The meeting on Saturday helped immensely."

She said the parks committee will put together a multi-phased business and development plan within the next week or two and that will be followed by another community-wide meeting, hopefully on Dec. 13 to allow further discussion on the proposed business plan. Any additions or rejections heard at that meeting will be incorporated into a final plan that will be placed as a proposal for further funding and park development in the new year.

"All the meetings will be open of course, but we really hope to have a good turnout for the meeting around Dec. 13 when we'll talk about the different phases of the business plan that is coming from this past Saturday session," said Dunford.

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