Hearthside Park summer program restoredA summer playground program at one Cottage Grove park was restored, and another axed by city council members during a workshop session last week.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
A summer playground program at one Cottage Grove park was restored, and another axed by city council members during a workshop session last week.
Hearthside Park, at Hearthside Road and Hillside Trail, will host a five-day-a-week youth park program this summer, reversing a January move that eliminated the program there but spared Hamlet Park from the cuts.
Instead, the Hamlet program — which Park and Recreation officials say is under-attended — will be the program cut, leaving Cottage Grove’s Summer Playground Program in place at Hearthside, Highlands and Peter Thompson parks.
Cutbacks in state aid forced the Cottage Grove City Council to make nearly $1 million in cuts from the 2009 budget — among them, the Cottage Grove Park and Recreation Summer Playground Program at Hearthside.
Last week Park and Recreation director Zac Dockter and program coordinator Molly Pietruszewski lobbied city council members to reconsider the decision, saying resources were better used at the busier Hearthside Park than the sparsely attended program at Hamlet.
“Geographically it makes complete sense” to continue operating the program at Hamlet, Dockter said, considering Hamlet is the lone park in the southwest section of Cottage Grove.
But the statistics don’t support the move. In 2008, he said, the Hamlet playground program — unlike the other four parks — did not cover its direct costs.
“Far and away it’s not as successful as our other programs,” Dockter said.
Mayor Myron Bailey and council member Justin Olsen both said they wanted something available for kids living on the west side of Highway 61.
But with only four children registered for the 10-week program at Hamlet Park as of last week — fewer than the seven at Hearthside, 16 at Peter Thompson and 17 at Highlands — officials said keeping Hamlet instead of Hearthside didn’t make much sense.
“Four kids at Hamlet makes it hard to justify,” said city council member Mark Grossklaus. He supported cutting the programs at both Hamlet and Hearthside.
“We’re going to have to cut somewhere at some time,” Grossklaus said.
Though the Hamlet program is disappearing, Dockter stressed, “we won’t abandon Hamlet Park. There’s still stuff there, just not every day.”
Eliminating one of the 10-week playground programs and two part-time staffers will save the city $7,200 in 2009.