Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District

Playground on Broadway. 

Early in 2012, the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District began the process of working to meet the physical and spatial needs of our residents and guests more adequately.

Although the Sunset Pool has wonderfully aged throughout its 40 years, there are many other ways that we know we should be meeting the health and wellness needs of our community.

The biggest challenge in meeting those needs, is a lack of indoor physical space.

That glaring lack of space has manifested itself throughout my time with the district many, many times. Please allow me to illustrate just a few of those examples.

We have fitness classes that are stuffed to the brim and often held in the same space that our drop-in fitness participants use, making it difficult for both to occur at the same time.

The fitness center located to the north of Sunset Pool has a total of five cardiovascular machines and, at peak times, all are used by patrons of the facility.

Other fitness classes are held in the Bob Chisholm Community Center and that provides some interesting challenges with the other users of that space.

On a recent weekday a lunch meeting at the center backed right up against one of the weekly yoga classes offered. The traces of lunch wafted throughout the space as the participants engaged in their warrior and tree poses.

Another experience had our weekly dance fitness class occur at the same time as a local non-profit Board Meeting. Although the meetings occurred in two different rooms in the center, the music from the dance fitness class permeated the entire building, and rightfully so as in that class the experience is greatly aided by the fun music and lively environment.

Although our staff takes every precaution and does a great job in managing the space, these overlapping conflicts are bound to occur in the sharing of a space that was not designed for such purposes.

One other blatant lack of space that the district suffers from, is the absence of indoor gyms. Without a gym to program activities in, the community in which we serve does not have a space to participate in many of the healthy activities that are not only popular but would also enhance their individual wellness and create a greater sense of community here.

Activities such as basketball, volleyball, pickleball, racquetball and many, many others are left to forage for programming time for those activities on their own, and those results are typically unsuccessful.

Consider that even the district, with desires to serve the entire community, is only able to utilize one of the gyms at the middle school for two hours each week for open gym basketball programming. The gyms owned by the Seaside School District are extremely busy with physical education classes, school programs, concerts and other activities, not to mention the many community groups needing rental space for their gym activities.

So that process, begun in 2012, was quite important for the district in helping us meet those needs of our community. We’ve continued that discussion and have progressed the conversation to where we are now.

We’ve gathered important public input and are getting closer to understanding the benefits of adding space for the District which, of course, includes the financial implications of doing so.

One question that has been asked of me several times goes something like this: “Why does our community need this (more space)?” My answer has always been the same.

Just as other public services like water, sewer and public safety are essential to the lives of residents, so too are parks and recreation programs. These programs and the facilities that house them help ensure the health of families, adults and youth. Simplistically, we need more space to help bring about greater health to this area, to our residents and our guests.

When I travel to other parts of our great state and region, I pay great attention to what I can perceive as the factors of life that contribute to quality of life for the residents there. How is the community laid out, how is it maintained? Is it desirable to live there based on controllable factors?

Those communities that have desirability, at least to me, are those places that have an abundance of both programs and spaces for the community residents to recreate. Parks, trails and greenspace is aplenty here in our area, but we are working hard to meet the need of providing more physical space for our residents so that they can continue to have every opportunity to P.L.A.Y.!

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