Saturday, July 13, 2024

Fort Coulonge hosts rural recreation conference

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Fort Coulonge
May 1, 2024
Community leaders from across Quebec met in Fort Coulonge last week to exchange ideas about best practices for developing recreational and leisure facilities and programming in rural communities.
The two-day conference, organized by the MRC Pontiac and Loisir sport Outaouais and hosted at the Spruceholme Inn, featured panel discussions and workshops from experts across the recreation and leisure industry, as well as local activities including axe-throwing at the beach in Mansfield and a bus ride to Chutes Coulonge.
Municipal leaders, teachers and members of recreation organizations from the Pontiac were among the almost 200 conference attendees who participated in workshops on a large variety of topics including how to create effective signage, best practices for intermunicipal cooperation when it comes to developing recreational activities, how to fund recreation projects, recreation for seniors, and the list goes on.
Two Pontiac residents presented the results of the work they have done in their own communities.
Meghan Griffin, vice-president of the Bryson Recreation Association, made a presentation about the RA’s recent successes, which include a new playground, a new outdoor rink, the revitalization of the town’s beach, and a thriving summer day camp.
She said most of the RA’s work is guided by feedback the association receives from the community, including by way of a public consultation the RA conducted in 2022.
“We did get a couple comments for bigger projects, but a lot of the comments were very basic things that we couldn’t see anymore, like benches, public bathrooms, drinking fountains, shade, trees,” Griffin told THE EQUITY ahead of her presentation. “They just said ‘We like what we have but make it better.’”
Griffin said this type of conference is important to encourage municipalities to get more actively involved in bringing new recreation projects to their communities.
“When people think of towns, people often think of sewer, water and roads,” she said. “Often, we forget how important it is for the well being of the town to have more life to it.”
Louis Harvey, development agent responsible for creating vitalization projects for the municipality of Mansfield and Pontefract, also gave a presentation at the conference, highlighting his work transforming the historic Marchand covered bridge so that it lights up at night, and developing a new rest stop in Mansfield.
“Rural leisure is a very important subject for a municipality because that’s what gives a village life,” Harvey told THE EQUITY in French.
He said his biggest challenge is inspiring ambition amongst municipal leaders to take on recreational development projects.
He attended the conference to meet other people working in his field, share his own experience, and learn other strategies for improving his own community.
Danelle Bourque works for MRC Pontiac as its sports and leisure developer and co-organized the conference with colleague Stéphanie Hébert-Potter, tourism director for the MRC, and with Loisir sport Outaouais.
She said the conference has been in the works since December and that when registration opened in January, it filled up within two weeks.
Bourque said she believes the greatest needs for recreational development in the Pontiac are activities for people between the ages of 20 and 45, as well as activities and facilities that are accessible to people living with disabilities.
She said this summer the MRC will be working on better signage for the PPJ rail-trail and for the Oisseau Rock historic site in Sheenboro.