Recreation Master Planning with RC Strategies

How can a consulting firm help you develop a Recreation Master Plan for your community? Read this story to find out!

The Framework for Recreation in Canada is designed to be a guide in stimulating policies and practices in recreation and related jurisdictions across Canada in order to improve overall wellbeing. As a result, the Framework has influenced the content of at least 10 Recreation Master Plans in Saskatchewan with more in development.

Michael Roma, Partner, RC StrategiesUnlike Official Community Plans (OCPs), where communities must prepare the plan in consultation with a registered professional planner, there is no such requirement for a community when creating a Recreation Master Plan. If a community decides to create one, they can hire any Consultant they wish or complete it internally. Some communities have taken advantage of the services a professional consultant can provide. 

RC Strategies is one such firm. They are an SPRA Commercial Member and have been involved with the development of Recreation Master Plans in Saskatchewan. To learn more about what it takes to create a recreation master plan, I spoke with Michael Roma, Partner at RC Strategies. He shared his thoughts with me on what these plans include, and how to go about creating them. 

What is a Recreation Master Plan?

MR: "A Recreation Master Plan is a strategic level document that provides clear direction for staff and council to deliver recreation services in the community. It is based on a thorough research and engagement with the community. It can have tactical elements, but it is not a Needs Assessment or Feasibility Study. Needs Assessments and Feasibility Studies will help answer those “what” and “where” questions, whereas a Recreation Master Plan may address “what” and “where” but will also answer “why”." 

Why have a Recreation Master Plan?

MR: "Recreation Master Plans provide strategic guidance to decision makers as to how to best allocate resources for recreation services in their community. There are also broader community benefits to having one, as well as more internally focused business unit or department benefits."

"For the community it can inspire healthy and active lifestyles, connect people to each other and nature, foster community pride, be a catalyst for economic development and tourism activity, support the best use of limited resources, and support environmental sustainability. It can also create transparency and understanding of the municipalities’ priorities to the public." 

"Municipal Business Units or Departments benefit in that it demonstrates their leadership and intention to best serve the public. It justifies current and future investments, builds community consensus and support, fosters community awareness of opportunities and the value of recreation, identifies capital planning needs and asset management requirements and provides frameworks to guide sustainability, resiliency and equity."

What are the steps to creating a Recreation Master Plan?

MR: "First you must understand what your objective is for the process; determine what question(s) you need to answer or what issues you need to deal with. Then learn as much as you can about your community through a recreation lens. Listen to the community through stakeholder engagement, learn what their satisfaction levels of services are and what their priorities for the community are for the future. The more people you engage, the more responsive the plan can be and the greater buy-in it will have."

"Approaching the general public in addition to dedicated volunteers and interest-based organisations is important. This will balance the “organized” voices you normally hear with the voices of the community as a whole. Then take into consideration influences and trends. This is where documents like the Framework influence the content of a Master Plan and then draft and approve the plan. Finally, implement the plan to get value out of the process and demonstrate your commitment back to the community."

What advice do you have for communities that want to create a Recreation Master Plan?

MR: "Build buy-in early on and do your best to get the community excited about the process. This could mean setting up a community- based steering committee, letting the community know it's happening and that their input is important. If able, involve elected officials because at the end of the day they will be the ones who will approve it.The plan will serve as a guide to help decision making, so Council should see themselves in it. Involve key partners in the planning process. If you foresee a big project coming out of the planning process, involve potential project partners early to increase their buy-in."

"If possible, build a brand around the plan. This helps the public recognize the plan and will help them connect projects or initiatives they see during implementation back to their input in developing the plan. For example, they may recognise the logo used and link that back to the survey they participated in two years ago. Focus and commit to implementation of the plan. Creating the plan can be a lot of work and implementation involves even more focus, resources and commitment; it can be easy to put on the shelf. Getting Council’s approval on the plan is the start of the hard work."

"The more you can demonstrate you are implementing the plan, the greater buy-in you will get from the community. Try reaching for the low hanging fruit to get some early successes."

What advice do you have for smaller communities that may not have the same budget and resources as a larger community?

MR: "Make sure you engage your entire community in whatever you do (the public and user/interest groups). Rely heavily on the Framework (Goals and Priorities), especially if you have no budget to hire some consulting help – it can be “street credit” for your process and help you set priorities. Make sure you set expectations – don’t promise more than you can offer. Finally, make sure your elected officials participate in the process and respect their decision-making authority."

Why have a Recreation Master Plan that is aligned with the Framework?

MR: "Having a plan that is aligned with the Framework builds credibility for your cause and what’s happening in your community. The Framework is based on the expert opinions of many intelligent leaders in the recreation and parks field. It may help to align local interests with those of provincial or federal stakeholders which may have funding implications or bring other resources into your community. It galvanizes the sector and strengthens the argument/justification for recreation and parks across Canada."

How should you begin the planning process?

MR: "Define the planning goals and objectives, budget for the process and develop a Request for Proposals and/or Terms of Reference and advertise it locally and on SaskTenders. Be aware that the size of the community and the amount of information and details to gather will influence the cost. Plans can cost anywhere between $30,000 to $200,000 or more." 

For More Information

To learn more about RC Strategies, visit their website

You can learn more about the Framework for Recreation in Canada 2015 – Pathways to Wellbeing on CPRA's website.

For more information on master planning, or how to apply the recommendations of the Framework in your community, contact SPRA Field Consultant Dan Gallagher at at or call 306-780-9218.