If you ask Clinton Walton what he thinks about proposed changes at the Claremore Super Recreation Center, he’ll say, “It’s a wonderful facility, and it’s a shame we can’t provide it the way it is now.
“But, I’ll say this, it’s one of the best things to ever happen to Claremore.”
However, Walton, 80, said he understands why changes have to be made. He and wife Margaret Sue use the facility about five times a week. They have been members for the last four years.
The fee increase set to go into effect Aug. 1, might be a “little harder on the seniors,” and “I don’t particularly like that,” Walton said. But, speaking from a taxpayer and user viewpoint, Walton believes the Center must start paying its own way.
Walton, who has had heart surgery and now has a defibrillator, is a regular walker and also user of the Center’s exercise machines.
“My only concern is for the kids that are, I guess you would say, underprivileged or don’t have the funds to walk up there,” Walton said. “But I know a lot of people drop off kids and it’s a babysitting deal.”
City Manager Troy Powell agrees on both points and says the pending changes at the Center will address both of Walton’s concerns.
In an e-mail last week, Powell said a one-time budget expenditure of $20,000 has been put in place to fund a scholarship program allowing free access to qualifying youth.
“The scholarship is available now,” Powell said. Application can be made at the Center front desk.
“Basically this comes down to income and number of children [in a family],” Powell said. The scholarship will use the same guidelines as the school’s free lunch program.
Youth eligible for free access will be required to follow facility rules and will be accounted for as they will be banded each time they enter and leave the Center.
“There are many current users of the facility that requested and are extremely happy about the changes,” Powell said.
While youth access will be restricted ($1 per day or $15 per month for daily use of track and gym unless eligible for the scholarship), seniors will continue to have free access to the walking track.
Powell believes that is justified, agreeing with Walton’s observation that “in some instances,” the Center has become a free babysitter.
In addition, “there were legal issues (police having to be called).”
In a report to the City Council, Center management noted 82 police calls in the last year to address fighting, larceny and trespassing. The majority involved minors.
Addressing concerns raised by members of the citizens advisory group, the Parks and Recreation Board, Powell said a youth coordinator position has been added.
The lack of a comprehensive youth program in the city was one issues Board member Mack Greever raised during his address to the Council in May and again when he talked with the Progress last week.
The youth coordinator position should be filled in July, Powell said.
In the meantime, Powell noted that access to the current Community Center on north Sioux Avenue is free and open for public use on a daily basis (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 8-4; closed on Sundays).
A Teen Center event is held every Friday and Saturday night from 7-11 p.m. (unless the facility is booked). The events are basic basketball, air hockey, pool and watch TV in a supervised environment.
“The teen center nights have some group activities and basically just offer a place for teens to hang out in a safe positive atmosphere,” Powell said. “As you can see, the community center is open much more than the recreation center is with the exception of Sunday.” Powell agreed the City needs to do “a better job marketing” the Community Center programs.
“I hope that the new Youth Program Coordinator can help really get this going. The BLAST program is also available for after school kids and we hope to expand this as well, to do more, once the new person is on board,” Powell said.
Currently there are no city-sponsored school or summer youth programs offered at the Rec Center.
Powell said volunteers are always needed to work with the youth.
“I think one of the high priorities for the new Youth Program coordinator is going to be getting volunteers.”