Family Friendly Rossland initiative takes stock of ideas

By Contributor
February 13th, 2013

Rossland’s Sustainability Commission (SC) has completed both a comprehensive inventory of family friendly community assets and an open-ended, online public consultation to ask community members what makes Rossland family friendly and what could make it even better.

The process identified more than 300 family friendly assets in town, and categorized and prioritized a broad range of public input that is now available online at www.visionstoaction.ca.

The information will be likely be integrated into a family services database by the Lower Columbia Family Action Network (FAN), a regional coalition aiming for collaborative action to invest in our communities’ family friendliness.

FAN originally approached Mayor Greg Granstrom in the spring of 2012 to see how Rossland could participate in the regional initiative, and Granstrom suggested that the SC take the lead on Rossland’s initiatives.

SC Manager Ann Damude solicited residents’ opinions using Thoughtstream, a survey software designed to address open-ended questions. About 350 community members drawn from the City of Rossland, SC, and Neighbourhoods of Learning email lists were contacted with the following three questions:

1) From your perspective, what currently makes Rossland a family friendly community?

2) What could we do, as a community, to make Rossland more family friendly?

3) Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about Rossland as a family friendly community?

Damude categorized the answers from the 96 respondents, and then sent a second email to the same 350 community members to ask them to “vote” by assigning stars to their favourite  answers. The answers were prioritized by summing the votes of the 81 respondents to the second email.

“People feel Rossland is family friendly because it is a safe, quiet community set in

a healthy natural environment with easy access to the outdoors encouraging active, healthy lifestyles,” Damude said. “People also put a lot of value on the warm, welcoming and inclusive nature of the community, and the fact that it is compact and walkable, with downtown businesses that provide most of the things that families require.”

Far and away the most important element of Rossland’s future friendliness to families, however, receiving nearly double the votes of the second place element, was the availability of quality K-12 education. Damude said survey participants were unequivocal: “Rossland will need to ensure that high quality and innovative K-12 educational opportunities remain in the community.”

Strong support also focused on services and programming for teens. “Residents feel that a skatepark and an ‘in-town winter play park’ that includes skating and tobogganing would be attractive to families,” Damude said.

Furthermore, “People thought it was important to ensure that it is economically viable for families to live in Rossland by lowering residential taxes and increasing work opportunities,” Damude added.

Shelley Ackerman was contracted to assemble an inventory of more than 300 family friendly assets in Rossland, ranging from childcare and education services, to healthcare, wellness, clubs, sports, and recreation, to financial and employment services, and even family dining. Every service in the database includes a description, location, website, and contact information.

“The database is a work in progress as services and contact information change,” Damude said, but we are considering turning it into a searchable database, perhaps accessed from the city website. For now the spreadsheet is available online.

Now Damude is spreading the word to stakeholders such as  the City of Rossland, Rossland Recreation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Lower Columbia Initiative, about how best to use the data.

She hopes the information they’ve gathered will help guide the city’s marketing efforts to attract new families, businesses, international and academy students, and regional employees to move to Rossland. More immediately, she hopes the SC’s efforts will help families in town take advantage of its best family friendly assets.

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