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Public Recreation Departments Continue to See Effects of Lagging Economy

Summer has just begun, but families across the country could find that they have fewer options for low-cost activities this year, as many municipalities have been forced to cut funding for parks and recreation department facilities and services. Some related stories from the past week include:

Pool closings. The city of Merced, CA, announced that its three public pools, which serve around 1,200 people, will not open this year, due to financial issues. Merced’s interim director of parks and community services, Frank Quintero, told the Merced Sun-Star that the decision was made in response to the city manager’s direction to reduce 15 percent from the department’s budget. The city spent $41,000 to operate its pools last summer, according to Quintero.

Departmental merger. Avon Park, FL, is combining its parks and recreation department with the city’s streets department. The parks and recreation supervisor for Avon Park, Larry LaFlam, will take over supervisory role at the city’s streets department and three other vacant departmental positions will not be filled, Julian Deleon, interim city manager, told the Sebring, FL-based Highlands Today newspaper. The merger is a cost-cutting measure—Deleon says the city anticipates around $409,000 in reduced ad valorem revenues this year due to declining property valuations in the city.

Rec center fitness equipment. The city of Oakland, CA, will open a new fitness and recreation center this week, but it is still looking for funding to support all of its planned services. The 25,000-square-foot, LEED-certified East Oakland Sports Complex features a water park, dance studios and fitness center, but it currently does not have the budget needed to purchase and install fitness equipment, Dana Riley, assistant to the director of the city’s parks and recreation department, told the Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, CA. The second phase of the building’s construction—to include an indoor basketball court, an indoor track and a competition outdoor pool—also is on hold until sufficient funding is available, Riley said.

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