Community activities for kids has emerged as one of town council’s top priorities.
Niagara-on-the-Lake council greenlit its strategic plan at a meeting on July 25 and most of the 30-minute discussion was on the need to provide more community programs for children.
During back and forth between councillors arguing for its necessity, Coun. Nick Ruller said there is a “clear absence” of programs for young people in town.
“We have heard over and over again from families in this community that there is no programming for children,” he said.
He gave the scarcity of child-targeted programs in the NOTL community centre’s July schedule as an example: There are 39 programs on the schedule and two, a junior tennis club and a robotics club, are targeted toward kids.
“We are saturated with programs for other age groups, and there is a clear gap,” he said.
Coun. Adriana Vizzari supported Ruller’s statements and said the design of the strategic plan was “intentional” and designed to fill that gap.
However, for Coun. Sandra O’Connor, plans for senior residents in town were lacking in the strategic plan.
“There’s not one mention of seniors in the whole plan,” said O’Connor, also pointing out that seniors make up a third of the town’s population.
She suggested council could fix this by adding additional senior programs to the town’s plan for increasing community youth and family programs.
Her suggestions were rejected by her peers, who argued that while O’Connor’s inclusive intentions were good, they were unnecessary.
Coun. Maria Mavridis said the town needs to focus on bringing “additional programming for the youth,” stressing “additional” as a key word.
She argued that O’Connor’s motion was made redundant by the language of the plan, which identifies there is an “additional” need for youth programs.
While there is an apparent lack of youth-targeted programming at the community centre, the town does offer swimming programs for youth and these have been recently very successful, Vizzari said.
She told The Lake Report the town’s swim team has been “crushing” other swim teams in regional competitions.
The team of about 40 swimmers meets twice a week in St. Davids and twice again at Memorial Park and caters to children five to 16, she said.
The strategic plan, which will guide council’s choices regarding what to prioritize over the remainder of its term, has been in the works since council first took office in November.
Staff suggested council adopt a five-year plan, though its term wraps up after four, because it usually takes incoming councils some time to form their own strategic plan.
An initial draft of the plan made little mention of the environment.
The final version of the plan divides council priorities into four categories, one of which was reserved for community assets, environment and infrastructure.
The plan is structured so that all town projects can be assessed with environmental impacts in mind.