The Dryden Observer

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Draft Cultural Plan released

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
A draft of the city of Dryden’s Municipal Cultural Plan was presented to the public, Feb. 1 at The Centre.
An apt space to discuss ‘long-term vision’ for the city, a crowd of interested residents were reminded of the long, winding road by which the community arrived at its goal of a concert hall.
The result of several years of community consultations through the Municipal Cultural Roundtable and the focused efforts of city staffer Gwen Kurz, the Draft Municipal Cultural Plan is an effort to integrate cultural considerations into municipal decision-
making.
Kurz admits the wispy concepts around cultural planning has proven difficult for some to wrap their heads around.
“All through the project people have struggled with ‘culture’ and how we’re defining that and cultural planning,” said Kurz.
“That’s understandable because it’s such a broad topic. It’s about trying to find meaningful, practical and responsible ways to influence decision-making that will in turn influence the way our culture develops. Our culture changes with the demographics, with the economy, with social issues — all these things influence the way we see one another and how we work together.”
But how does such an idea work within normal city business like fixing potholes and clearing the snow from the streets?
“Even things like the built infrastructure of our city influence our culture,” she said. “Do we have neighbourhoods that are easy for people to get around in? Can they walk to where they need to go? Are there places for people to gather and spend time together? It’s in that gathering that creative ideas emerge, that community pride develops — whether that’s in a park, or in a coffee shop, or on the street downtown.”
Kurz points to the city’s growing urban aboriginal population as a key opportunity for municipal cultural planning in the city’s future.
“You can’t have cultural vitality if you don’t have social equity,” she said. “If there’s a significant percentage of the population that’s not being included, then we’re missing out. We’re fortunate to have two members from the Dryden Native Friendship Centre on the Cultural Roundtable teaching us ways to be more inclusive of urban Aboriginal people.”
Funding for the city’s municipal cultural planning role, ends as of March 31. The decision to extend the position lies with city councillors as they struggle with a difficult budget.
A former city councillor, Kurz knows her role could be a tough sell in a climate of economic restraint.
“The challenge is that the new council may not be familiar with this process, or watched it evolve over several years,” she said. “And there’s a big learning curve in order to grasp all this has to offer. There are many demands on the city budget. To try and fit into that is a challenge.”
The City of Dryden Draft Municipal Cultural Plan can be viewed online at www.dryden.ca
By Chris Marchand

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