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City needs to know residents value community recreation, want home and support for it

Posted: September 12, 2013 - 8:04am

Did you notice? The city’s wish list has a gaping hole. For the last four years a Homer Education and Recreational Center has made it onto Homer’s Capital Improvements Projects list. Where is it this year? What are we doing about this? 

When speaking to Homer City Council members and city employees, they somewhat agree. Their response is that they have not heard from the people of Homer, the citizens who live here. 

Well, I am here to tell you, it is time to become involved. With all of this talk about Public Safety and Green Dot Communities, the fact that we currently don’t have a place for a Boys and Girls Club to be operating in our community is sickening.

The issue of space is the problem. 

What to do (or not to do) with the HERC building seems to have stalled everything. It is time to move on from this building and set our sites on a new goal. The goal being a facility for recreation and community programs. Now, if we can formulate a  way to pay for this, we are golden.

Since April of this year (after the City Council work session about the HERC building), a group of concerned and passionate folks have been meeting. Recently we decided to call ourselves ReCreate Rec and our mission statement is “To assist the growing recreational, wellness and extracurricular needs of the citizens of the Southern Kenai Peninsula through support and growth of social, artistic, and recreation programs as well as the establishment of an indoor recreation and community space.” 

As communities all around us make Community and Recreation Centers a reality for themselves (Sterling, Seldovia, and recently Soldotna with a teen center), I am envious and hopeful that the Southern Kenai Peninsula can do the same. What is the right path? Do we finally give Park and Rec its own department within the city structure instead of housing it as an offshoot of Public Works? Do we ask the city of Homer to pass the recreation responsibilities over to the borough and create a recreation service area which generates money through a REC tax (much like the hospital and emergency service service areas)? I don’t know. 

All I know is that the kids and parents of Homer and the surrounding area have to figure out what to do after school on their own this winter. Senior walkers have to go to the High School Commons before school starts. Toddler playgroups, Pickle ballers, wrestlers, karate and gymnastic classes or anyone who uses a gym in a school district building, have to be moved or cancelled whenever something else is happening in this coveted indoor space. 

By working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, they make it work. They get through and continue meeting but the problem of lack of space is not going away. 

In the spring, the lack of field space presents a similar problem. 

Why haven’t we made any headway on this?

It’s complicated. There is no money. We don’t know what people want. 

In order to move forward and try and get some answers the Parks and Rec Commission has requested that the city manger include in his budget a Parks and Rec Needs Assessment. We at ReCreate Rec support this request and hope that this much needed needs assessment will help us to collect valuable unbiased information about our recreational scene here in Homer and surrounding areas. 

Where do you come in?

Help ReCreate Rec in Homer. Attend the next meeting Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 3:30-5 p.m. at the Homer Public Library Conference room. Voice your concerns. Listen and share ideas. 

Homer and its recreational groups are growing and expanding. With some ingenuity and communication, I feel that a solution to our community’s needs can be met because recreation and health are priorities here. 

In the next year a move will be made to hopefully solve this never-ending conundrum of how to house and support Community Recreation and give some stability to our broad spectrum of already established recreational and community groups. I urge you to be part of the solution and when it comes time to vote, make sure that something you want and can support is on the ballot. 

As our city possibly embarks on building a new Public Safety Building, wouldn’t it be great to be able to point out how over the years it is getting less and less use because we have been proactive in our community and given our kids, adults and seniors a place to learn, socialize and practice healthy lifestyles? I sure think so.

Kate Crowley is the head organizer of ReCreate Rec and the mother of two active boys. She has lived in Homer for 17 years and writes that she  “loves being active in Homer ... (and) finds more reasons to love it all the time.” To find out more about ReCreate Rec contact her at katepcrowley@gmail.com.

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