Municipal Sport, Recreation & Culture Services Planning

Mehak, Kelly & Associates provides a range of planning services in municipal sport, recreation, and culture services planning. Community leisure services are essential to providing opportunities for all residents of all ages to participate in sport, recreation, leisure and arts activities for skill development, enjoyment, physical activity and health, social engagement and personal well-being. Comprehensive planning for leisure services must:


      • balance demand for traditional programming with growing interest in new/emerging areas of organized recreation and individual participation;

      • motivate and support increased participation in physical activity for health and well-being;

      • encompass a broad view of recreation services to include local arts, culture and heritage;

      • consider trends and community expectations in relation to the municipality’s mandate and capacity to provide services;

      • determine an appropriate, implementable municipal role in service provision vis-à-vis other public, not-for-profit, and private sector organizations.


Each of these themes is appropriately and carefully addressed in our Master Plans, Strategic Plans, and Needs Assessment/Feasibility Studies.

Master Plans

Master Plans are long-term, comprehensive plans (typically ten years) for providing municipal leisure services to the community. These plans may deal exclusively with sports and recreation or arts and culture, may address both areas of service, and may or may not include parks. Based on direct consultation with the public and secondary source research, master plans map – at a fairly high level – the actions that should be taken to anticipate and respond to community need for/interest in services that are within the mandate of the municipality to provide. Services include facilities, programs/activities, parks, and the organizational structure and operations needed to provide them. Master plan recommendations are typically accompanied by projected high-level capital and operating costs, direction on required policy supports, potential funding sources, a process for monitoring progress, and a schedule for implementation.

Recreation Services and Health, Wellness and Inclusion

All of our recreation plans consider the role that these services play in the health and wellness of communities and all their residents. Increasingly, however, the health, wellness and inclusion aspect of recreation services is the focus of the project. The implicit historic role that parks and recreation services have played in all areas of health – physical, mental and emotional – is now being given more concrete recognition. And the ‘right to play’ for all members of our communities is a key factor in developing equitable plans.  In terms of service planning, blending recreation, health, wellness and inclusion is reflected in interdisciplinary work to produce integrated solutions.


The theme of integration is occurring in many service areas. On the land use planning front, we are looking to pre-WWII patterns of urban development to address some of the problems that have been created by the low-density sprawl extending from our cities and towns. And one of the themes that keeps emerging here is the integration of land uses to make daily life more physically active, and to imbed parks, trails, pathways, etc. within residential and employment areas – rather than isolate them in designated zones. This is the antithesis of the segregated approach to land use that dominated planning in the half century or so following WWII.


The ‘right to play’ movement looks to provide services that will allow all ages and abilities in our communities seamless access to the same recreation services that have traditionally been geared to relatively well-resourced and able-bodied people. This requires planning, designing and building facilities that are integrative/inclusive in their intent, and supporting these objectives with policies and programs that further facilitate access and use.


Mehak, Kelly & Associates provides planning services in areas where recreation crosses over into public health, wellness and accessibility – to assist clients in their efforts to eliminate what are often referred to as working ‘silos’, and so integrate service responses. These types of initiatives are often joint ventures involving a number of community agencies, including municipalities, public health authorities, district school boards, YMCAs, etc.  An important part of these projects, therefore, is arriving at an effective working relationship among a number of partner agencies with different mandates to ensure successful implementation.

Needs Assessments/Feasibility Studies

Needs Assessments/Feasibility Studies may follow a Master Plan recommendation to build a major community facility. A Master Plan, for instance, might recommend developing a community-serving arts resource centre or a multi-use recreation complex. As major capital and operations investments, however, the Plan would also recommend conducting a feasibility study to determine the types and levels of anticipated facility use, the specific facility components needed, and a preliminary facility design concept with capital costs. Community consultation for a feasibility study includes detailed information-gathering from potential users on their component facility needs, their anticipated use, and capacity for financial support. The potential to enter capital and operating partnerships with other interested agencies might also be investigated. Typically, a business case is included to project operating costs and revenues based on an anticipated schedule of community use/programming, a preferred management structure for the recommended facility and comparative data from similar facilities. Tax implications, funding sources and the “next steps” towards facility development are also considered.

Strategic Plans

Strategic Plans are also long-term, global plans that address future directions in developing and providing services. Strategic plans are typically prepared in response to an acknowledged need within an organization to change its current approach to doing business and/or to reposition itself in its market. The need for change is often dictated by external factors beyond the agency’s control, and its relationship to a changing environment must be addressed to maintain currency. This requires evaluating the current state, identifying appropriate corporate changes/re-orientations, determining a future vision that encompasses these, and preparing a multi-faceted strategy to achieve the vision. The plan must also be flexible enough to incorporate ongoing changes in its operating environment while it is being implemented. Strictly speaking, a strategic plan is very high level and focuses on organizational directions in all service areas within its mandate. Some plans, however, combine both high-level strategic directions with master plan recommendations for specific types of facilities and services.