SANATOGA PA – Municipal parks and recreation boards can be like fiefdoms, Alyson Elliott, Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township‘s assistant manager, explained last week. All of them serve certain groups of people exclusively, and so far few of them have been inclined to let others in on what they do.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), as well as the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, would like to change that, she said.
The boards, usually made up of volunteers, are responsible for planning taxpayers’ fun and games. They find talent for summer concerts in the parks, arrange bus trips to nearby attractions, and schedule kids’ sporting events like baseball and soccer. Each does similar things, but only for the residents of their township or borough.
DCNR and the foundation, both of which control some of the grant money that pays for local recreation programs, are advocating the appointment of a regional recreation coordinator, Elliot told the township Board of Commissioners during its Oct. 3 (2011) meeting. As the title implies, he or she would coordinate activities between boards, with an eye on involving more people and also reducing costs.
The idea has been pitched several times during regional meetings that Elliott attends. To date, though, “each community has been somewhat apprehensive about jumping in,” she said. The municipalities are uncertain a regional approach could ensure their specific taxpayers’ recreational needs or desires are met, Elliott added.
DCNR apparently knows a political stumbling block when it sees one. Faced with continued opposition to a coordinator, Elliott reported it recently announced plans to conduct a study that would “help communities narrow down” what they do differently for their specific audiences, as well as what they do in common.
With that information in hand, she noted, maybe attitudes toward a coordinator would change.
Commissioners voiced no opinions on whether or not they consider coordination a good idea, but asked Elliott to keep them updated on the study’s results.