Are recreational facilities good for business and economic development? The results of a recent survey financed by The Sunset Empire Parks & Recreation District in Seaside seem to support that theory.

In the survey, 91% of respondents said SERPD facilities were important or very important to their quality of life. The survey also provided the information that 20% of combined Seaside, Cannon Beach, and Gearhart residents have lived there less than five years.

Mary Blake, SERPD General Manager, said the survey was made to assist in District planning.

"The survey confirms that the District is good for people and good for business," Blake said. "A good recreation program improves the quality of life in a community, and that attracts tourists as well as new residents, especially retirees," she said.

Al Smiley, president of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

"Visitors, especially families, come here and stay longer because of the services the District provides. Quality of life is important."

SERPD, formed in 1969 as a Special District, operates the Sunset Swimming Pool, the Bob Chisholm Community Center, and the Seaside Youth Center, which includes a skate and bike park, all in Seaside. But the facilities and programs are open to everyone, including visitors to the coast.

The District offers recreation and meeting spaces, sports and exercise equipment, classes, after-school programs and summer camps, preschool and seasonal children's programs, and special events.

"All of these can help local businesses," said Blake, who has had a role with SERPD for 24 years.

For example, Blake said, "We try to teach young people the skills and values that employers look for in employees. Participating in organized recreation activities teaches young people to work with others, develop a service attitude, and to take ownership for their choices and pride in their achievements."

Blake said children's programs can provide a measure of low-cost child care for working parents.

"Leisure activities," she said, "produce healthier and happier adults and seniors, who can spend their money on shopping instead of health care, and can provide businesses with an experienced work force."

The survey was sent to 4,760 registered-voter households in School District #10, which includes Cannon Beach and Gearhart.

Survey results showed that about 60 percent of SEPRD users were from Seaside, about 25 percent from Cannon Beach, Gearhart, and Warrenton, and about 15 percent were tourists; Colin McArthur, a planner with Cameron, McCarthy, Gilbert & Scheibe, the Eugene firm that conducted the survey, said, "more than a 12% response was received, which made the results statistically valid."

SEPRD's annual budget is $2 million, and the District employs about 60 part-time employees.

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