Let’s improve on HERC, build ARC

In light of our community’s tremendous need for indoor recreational space and the city’s recent decision to designate the HERC (Homer Education and Recreation Complex) building as the site for a new Public Safety Building, it’s time to think outside the HERC, Homer. Let’s collectively go for something better. 

We deserve a facility which can serve Homer’s diverse recreational needs from pickle ball to yoga, from a comfortable year-round theater of, say, 200 seats to a functional maker’s space so that Homer can grow into our fullest potential as a healthy, vibrant community. 

I grew up here learning not to throw broken things away. Like many others, we had multiple vehicles in the yard, none of which was completely reliable, and each had too much potential to let go.

I, like many others, danced, sang, chased balls and attended concerts in the old HERC building. I appreciate this community’s history and penchant for frugality and recycling. That is the homestead way: If it works, let it be, and if it doesn’t work? Leave it in the yard for later. The fact is, HERC has worked, and I love how we’ve used the heck out of it. But now, we’ve grown and could use a little more space, a little better suited to our diverse interests and goals.

 Homer is raising great kids who need to run around especially when it’s raining, icy and/or cold out. We need to offer safe spaces and programs where they can unplug from devices and expand into their bodies. Not having a rec space is not an option. 

And safety comes first. The physical and financial consequences of operating out of an inadequate police station are too costly. I accept that we must address those needs and build a new public safely facility. 

I envision a recreational facility that is Homer’s ARC: Arts, Recreation and Culture all on one campus, a wonderful civic anchor on a beautiful piece of land dedicated to that purpose in our town center. To have both will take the investment of our city, certainly, but also our greater community. Let’s work together and support the coalition(s) and the tax service area or bonds to support these services. 

 Let’s make a coalition of ReCreate Rec, Homer Arts and Culture Alliance, PARC and every other wonderful beast that wants this ARC and build it. Start by showing your support for recreation and culture and fill out your PARC survey. Write in your ideas about how we can raise the money to make this happen. 

We who use Homer’s resources, from fire to library to HERC, extend far outside the city limits. All can chip in. Even if you think you don’t benefit from these you may not realize that basketball and ballet are keeping your neighbors’ kids out of trouble. Recreation and culture are safety issues. Growing healthy kids and keeping them focused on smart activities is an investment that pays dividends now, and later. It’s our responsibility. 

 Here’s a way forward: Show your support in the surveys and attend the PARC community meeting on Nov. 13 at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Keep using the HERC and the old truck as long as we can.

Meanwhile, we must convince local schools to share gym and classroom spaces so that we can use those spaces once HERC is down and the new, better facility is under construction. 

There certainly is enough gym space around town to support our needs temporarily, if the schools will cooperate.  We will be a bit scattered, hitchhiking like this, but if we are saving and gathering resources for something better, in the long run this loss of the HERC will be for the best. 

 Outside, it is impossible to find a community of this size with this level of cultural vibrancy. Homer is outstanding. Like my painter mom always says, the mountains are fabulous, but the people are incredible. We have amazing creative capacity and physical, environmental resources. The outdoors are incomparable, but kids deserve good indoor room to grow as well. 

Think high tunnel for arts and recreation. Let’s also nurture and retain our artists and thinkers with performance and workshop opportunities and makers’ space to incubate creativity and innovation. 

Let’s prevent brain drain, as smart people will seek the resources to grow elsewhere if not here. Let’s attract visitors and sustainable industry in the arts and recreation. It’s clean, healthy, economically generative, and, if given space, flows like an artesian well.

Homer still has a ways to go to express and support outwardly in our built environment the wealth and capacity that is latent within. 

An ARC in the heart of Homer is what this town needs to float us through long winters and dynamic summers. In a central space, that heart that Homer needs to physically and creatively define us, we’ll thrive with conferences, classes and festivals.

Believe it: This ARC can be a sustaining engine for Homer’s creative economy. 

Asia Freeman is the executive/artistic director of Bunnell Street Arts Center. She also serves on PARC Advisory Committee and Homer Arts and Culture Alliance. She is adjunct faculty for Kachemak Bay Campus and Many Rivers.