Summer rec will be missed, resident saysLori Kupfer’s daycare kids love running, playing, and meeting new faces at city parks in Newport’s Summer Recreation program, the Newport woman says.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Lori Kupfer’s daycare kids love running, playing, and meeting new faces at city parks in Newport’s Summer Recreation program, the Newport woman says.
But with money tight and cuts in state aid looming, city council members last month moved the $11,000 budgeted for the summer parks program elsewhere, leaving Kupfer and other fans of the program asking, ‘What now?’
“What upsets me the most is that Newport doesn’t have anything to offer to the youth,” Kupfer said. “They’re taking away this fabulous program and a lot of kids in the city don’t have parents at home during the day.”
Kupfer said she will deliver a signed petition to the Newport City Council next week, expressing dismay among some over the rec program’s demise.
But the problem, city councilwoman Pauline Schottmuller said last week, is that there just aren’t enough Newport residents like Kupfer to get much bang for the city’s buck.
Roughly 30 to 35 kids signed up for last summer’s program, Schottmuller said, not a huge number considering the $11,600 hit to the city’s budget.
In the past, the program was funded primarily through donations from the local Lions Club. But when those funds dried up, the city was left to foot the bill.
“I understand the program had people that really liked it,” said Schottmuller, who used to run the program when she was a parks and recreation administration major at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s. “But when you look at all the competing needs of the city, we didn’t feel we were getting our best value for our dollar.”
Kupfer said she recognizes the program needed an overhaul, but she expressed disappointment that summer rec’s funding was shifted with limited discussion before the council voted unanimously to do so.
The council gave $5,000 previously set aside for the rec program to the Newport Athletic Association and put the other $6,600 in the general fund.
“It was such a little, tiny blurb in the (meeting) minutes about it,” Kupfer said. “There was no discussion.”
The program isn’t dead, though, Schottmuller says. There will be no daily summer recreation program in 2009, she concedes, but if reworked the program could return.
“No one was happy with it going away,” she said.
What needs to happen, she said, is a revamping of summer rec on the administrative level. That’s not likely to happen now, with no full-time administrator as the city searches for a replacement for former administrators Larry Bodahl and Bart Fischer.
But when the new city administrator is in place, Schottmuller says, the city should discuss hiring someone during the summer months with a recreation administration background to help lay out clear goals for the program.
“What needs to come back is some real, clear thought with what we’re trying to accomplish with the recreation program,” she said. “What opportunities are we trying to provide to Newport kids? And it’s got to be more than a few hours playing at a playground.
“Once there’s a clearer idea of what a rec program in Newport should really look like, then you can look at what funding is available,” she said.
Until then the city is exploring holding a handful of movie nights at Pioneer Park, a popular event elsewhere where families can watch movies under the stars.
For Kupfer, that doesn’t come close to filling the void of no rec program for Newport’s kids in 2009.
“It’s disheartening to me,” she said, “that they’re replacing activities in this town with yet more inactivity.”