By KATIR BRITTON
FOR THE HOMERNEWS
Finding a stable home for Homer recreation programs is the goal of ReCreate Rec, a grassroots group whose vision includes a community center.
Still in the research and development phase of its plan, the group has divided itself into smaller working groups to determine a course of action, how to make its goals a reality, what the center will look like and how to maintain the project once it is built.
The group of about 15 first got together in April. It is made up of concerned citizens and parents, a physical education teacher, parks and recreation professionals, and others.
At its Sept. 25 meeting, the group decided the first step to getting anything done was to have a needs assessment. Among other things that assessment could determine the feasibility of establishing a recreation service area to help pay for a center.
“I don’t want to pretend like I’m speaking for everyone,” Kate Crowley, who began the group, said in an interview with the Homer News. “If it’s not a priority, so be it.”
She said that the community should decide what’s important. She thinks Homer has been building toward a community center for some time and is hopeful that people will support the group’s goals.
At the September meeting, Crowley expressed interest in meeting Homer City Council member Barbara Howard’s challenge to the community that there be a plan in place for building the center and for regular support of the plan by election day 2014.
“There are really awesome programs going through growing pains. … We need to make sure that they keep going,” Crowley said speaking of the community rec program.
Mike Illg, coordinator for the city’s community rec program, was at the meeting in an advisory role. He said that while the relationship with the school district is fantastic, community recreation finds itself like a “boat without a dock.”
Community recreation — formerly community schools — is housed within Homer High School. Its main resources come from the city of Homer general fund, user fees and small advertisements. Part of the agreement between the various groups that use community rec and the school district is that the schools’ activities take precedence over the outside programs.
Illg said once basketball season begins for the high school, indoor space is hard to come by. The program is trying to grow and as a result it doesn’t fit in the schools as well as it once did.
He said the issue is important because “recreation is not all about sports. It’s self-development, community connection, economic development and health and wellness. … It’s about inter-generational connection and enhancing the social equity of one’s community.”
Crowley is not interested in creating this community recreation center only to have the city take over the care of it.
“I know there isn’t room in the budget for something like this. … We’re looking at different models for maintenance,” she said. “It’s not going to be about the big arm of government coming in and taxing us. It would be us taxing ourselves.”
Crowley knows that many in Homer might be uncomfortable with the idea of raising taxes, but, she said, “it’s a socio-economic issue … without a Boys and Girls Club active in Homer, what can families afford?”
“Homer is a good place,” Crowley said. “The city is growing, and rec is going to play a role in that. The people who support that need to speak up. What does Homer need that it doesn’t have?”
For her, the answer is a community center, a place for as much information as is available about recreation in Homer can be found, as well as a place that people can come together even in the winter and have fun.
Katir Britton is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
When: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30
Where: Homer Public Library conference room
When: Oct. 28 to Sterling and Nikiski