Ten years and $10 million.
That's what city parks and recreation officials think it will take to bring recreation facilities up to snuff in Lawrence. The town and the demand is growing, they say, and the facilities aren't keeping up. Among other items, the city needs more ball diamonds and another swimming pool.
It's a lot of money, but it might be a good investment.
As is true anytime they are spending taxpayer money, city commissioners should look carefully at the proposed recreation spending. They need to be sure they are getting the most for their money and providing the services the community needs the most.
If the city needs more ball diamonds, it's probably a good move financially to join forces with Youth Sports Inc., whose donors and organizers already have contributed more than $300,000 and seven years to developing the existing sports complex on Wakarusa Drive. The parks and recreation plan calls for spending another $2.88 million to complete and add to the YSI fields, which are on land supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Concerns over who will control the use and scheduling of the ball fields will have to be dealt with, but both YSI and the city stand to benefit from a partnership on the project. Another swimming pool in Lawrence probably also would be a good investment. Perhaps, however, it would be better to put off that item until a decision is made about building another secondary school in Lawrence. A second high school or a new mid-high school would be a natural place to locate a new pool, and the expenses could be shared with the school district.
The city also should take seriously a park board member's concern that neighborhood ball diamonds be maintained for children who don't have transportation to major complexes. That should be a consideration for all recreation facilities. Sometimes the children who need recreation programs the most are the ones who find them least accessible.
And children should continue to be a major focus of park and recreation planning. Adult teams and classes are important, but programs that attract children can both entertain and educate our youngsters. Getting them involved in recreation activities can keep them from getting involved in a multitude of less desirable pastimes.
The money available for parks and recreation in Lawrence isn't a bottomless pit, and funds need to be spent carefully. But wise spending on recreation programs that reach a large portion of the city's population is probably money well spent.