Strong rec program can play big role in community’s success

With the Homer City Council approving its 2014 capital improvement projects priority list and four campaigns for two city council seats getting underway, we’re reminded of a book we read a few years ago, “Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community.” It was written by Doug Griffiths, a rural Western Canada legislator, and Kelly Clemmer, a Canadian journalist.

The foundation of the book is found in the prologue: “Communities have to make a conscious choice if they want to be successful or not. Communities have to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses. Communities have to determine what it is they can and must do to be successful. Communities have to believe they can be successful, and that their plan will make them successful, and they must then follow through on that plan. Communities have to believe that they can achieve their goal with or without government participation.” 

While there can be many definitions of a successful community, we all know one when we see it: It’s a busy, vibrant place; there’s a diversity of jobs and people; it’s affordable; there are good schools and opportunities for the young; elders are respected; young people are involved; there’s a focus on healthy lifestyles; the crime rate is low; the graduation rate is high.

The chapter titles of “Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community” outline the steps that can be taken if success isn’t what a community wants: 1. Don’t Have Quality Water; 2. Don’t Attract Business; 3. Ignore Your Youth; 4. Deceive Yourself About Your Real Needs or Values; 5. Shop Elsewhere. 6. Don’t Paint; 7. Don’t Cooperate; 8. Live In The Past; 9. Ignore Your Seniors; 10. Reject Everything New; 11. Ignore Outsiders; 12. Become Complacent; 13. Don’t Take Responsibility.

When it comes to those standards, Homer can take pride in its failure. Instead of taking steps to kill our community, citizens and elected officials are working hard not just to maintain but also to improve this place we call home.

A good example is the evolving discussion on community recreation. This is about more than if Homer residents need and want a community rec center and where it should go. It’s about supporting a core community value: connecting members of the community through easily available and affordable recreational opportunities, as well as promoting healthy lifestyle choices for all ages. 

Far from being a frill or a drain on a community’s budget, community recreation can play a vital role in building a successful community — or, in Homer’s case, a more successful community. It’s not a reach to say a strong community recreation program can help attract business because it makes the community more attractive for all age groups. A community rec program done well involves both youth and seniors and everyone in between. A strong community recreation program is evidence that a community gives more than lip service to the value of creating a healthy community. Community recreation, by its nature, fosters cooperation.

ReCreate Rec, the group that’s been meeting to build a stronger community rec program for Homer, is on the right path to a more vibrant community with the steps it’s taking, including encouraging a community needs assessment, taking a look at what other communities are doing and being involved in an issue that’s also a passion for them. Their actions show they’re willing to take responsibility to make something new happen in Homer. 

Campaign season is a great time for this discussion to happen. What do the candidates think about this issue? Are there some ways to pay for community recreation that haven’t yet been considered? Enthusiasm for an idea can carry it a long way. Just as important, however, is finding out how candidates feel about issues like community rec. Their answers will reflect how committed they are to keeping Homer a strong city.

(Editor’s Note: Oct. 1 is the municipal election. The Homer News today begins its coverage of the candidates and the issues. We encourage residents to get to know the candidates — and vote.)