In five to 10 years, Seaside residents and visitors could be running laps around an indoor multi-purpose building while their children play games in a renovated youth center. Afterwards, the children and adults may work out together in an expanded gym or attend a mixed-ages pottery class.

The vision is contained in a proposed guidance plan being considered by the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District’s board and staff members in an effort to take a new look at their mission for the next decade.

In a workshop May 3, members of the recreation district’s board and foundation and a sprinkling of Seaside residents tweaked a proposed “vision” statement and updated goals that will soon be put into play.

What they hope to accomplish is a recreation district that has greater visibility to residents, employees and visitors; improved facilities that allow more indoor sports and other activities; and events that allow younger and older generations to participate together.

The workshop was part of an effort begun nearly six months ago and will end when the district’s board adopts the recommendations made by district employees and community members. The process has included a survey of employees and district patrons, a community forum or “charrette,” a board work session and the May 3 community workshop.

The overriding question, said district Manager Justin Cutler, revolves around the “SEPRD experience”: “What do we want it to be? How does it feel?” Cutler asked.

“It’s about aligning community values, staff values and board values to make sure we’re heading in the same direction,” Cutler said.

Among the areas being examined are customer service, partnerships with other community organizations and businesses, providing broader activities for youth and increasing “intergenerational” programming, developing district employees’ expertise and maintaining financial stability.

With two pools, the district’s core focus will remain aquatics, according to the proposed “guidance plan.” But additional emphasis will be placed on developing the district as a “recreational hub,” where people can go for a variety of activities, from working out in the gym to learning how to improve their nutrition.

The district, which operates a preschool, will research and define the role it should play in early childhood education as it relates to the overall district mission. It will continue to offer a youth center and develop programs based on youths’ interest and involvement.

A survey conducted late last year indicated the district’s reputation is good: It received a rating of 9.03 (out of a possible 10.0) when respondents were asked how likely they would be to recommend the district’s activities to their friends. The rating, said workshop facilitator Carmen Voilleque, is very good. “But there’s room to grow,” she added.

It’s good to be known and appreciated by local residents, but visitors need to know about the district, too, said June Stromberg, a former district board member and a current member of the district’s foundation, which is the district’s fundraising arm.

“We have to remember we are a tourist town,” Stromberg said. “How we affect tourists affects the economy. We need to think about what we can offer tourists. If they had planned to go the beach and it rains, what can they do here?”

Cutler said the district is creating “table tents” to be placed on tables in every motel room. The placards will contain information about the pool and other district offerings. A walking map, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, also is being developed for runners or walkers who want to get exercise but don’t know what routes to follow.

Also on the guidance plan is a goal to keep pace with growth in Seaside and surrounding communities. Among the financing strategies to support potential expansion and facility renovation — including the creation of an indoor activity facility — is the idea of attaching systems development charges on new housing or motel construction, Cutler said.

The city of Seaside requires builders to pay a systems development fee when they take out permits for new residential construction. The fees go to pay for expansion of city infrastructure and park improvements to accommodate the increased population that will buy or rent the new housing.

The city used proceeds from systems development fees when it installed artificial turf on Broadway Field to attract more teams to use the field, Cutler said.

Growth also may eventually come in the form of expanded boundaries that could include Gearhart and Cannon Beach, although both cities have thwarted past district efforts to bring the cities within its boundaries. The district generally lies within the Seaside School District boundaries, except for Cannon Beach and Gearhart.

Finally, the proposed “guidance plan” also calls for more engagement of volunteers of all ages and across all programs and services. Workshop participants stressed the importance of personally asking individuals to become volunteers and having a range of volunteer opportunities to choose from.


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