Our view: Parks and rec gets biggest bang for buck

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What would summer be without T-ball, swimming and soccer?

The city's Parks and Recreation Department is in the middle of its busy season. During the summer, the department employs an additional 70 people to maintain parks and fields and put on programs.

The department's budget has remained flat for several years; part of the city's effort to maintain a healthy reserve. But the department enjoys a little more flexibility than others because many of its programs are fee-based. If you want to play in a recreation league or participate in an activity, it's going to cost you.

Still, the department is making a conscientious effort to expand the offerings beyond just sports.

"Kids sports is the easiest thing to program," Pike said. "Everyone wants to play baseball and soccer at that age. It's a guaranteed success."

Several years ago, the city offered many more nonsports activities, such as arts and crafts. But budget cuts eliminated all but the most popular offerings, which are primarily sports, Pike said.

Now the department is trying to introduce new activities for people who have interests outside of competitive sports. This year, the department is offering horseback riding adventures, an acting workshop for children and trips for senior citizens.

"The response has been awesome" for the senior citizen outings, Pike said, providing some confirmation for the staff that they're thinking on target.

One of the things that helps the department offer as much as it does is having a good relationship with the school district. Because Craig doesn't have a city-funded recreation center, the recreation department has to coordinate with schools for gym time. The schools also have provided transportation for skiing programs and the senior citizens' trips. Likewise, the department makes the city pool available for some school-sponsored activities before and after the school year.

"Without the school agreeing to help us, we couldn't do as much as we do," Pike said.

Pike said one thing the Parks and Recreation Department has considered for several years is some kind of day camp for children during the summer. It hasn't had the financial resources to do it and probably won't any time soon. But Pike is hoping that the emergence of the Boys and Girls Club will solve that dilemma.

The department sees more value in helping the Boys and Girls Club become established -- marketing the program and seeking grants to support it -- rather than setting up a competing day camp.

Pike envisions "co-habitating" in the old Armory building with the Boys and Girls Club and using the facility for additional recreation programs.

We're fortunate we have a Parks and Recreation Department that is committed not only to providing residents with fun activities, but improving the quality of life in Moffat County through solid partnerships.

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