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Recreation recommendations varied and plentiful in Moultonboro

February 16, 2011
MOULTONBORO — The Blue Ribbon Committee heard mixed recommendations from residents on the recreation needs of the town.

The committee has been reviewing the recreation and human service needs of the town to make recommendations on possible actions. On Thursday night, the committee took comment from town residents, receiving answers ranging from more space for recreation to compacting recreation with the schools.

Jane Fairchild wrote a letter to the commission with recommendations, asking that it consider the needs for all age groups and not just children and younger people through activities such as sports and trips. Fairchild asked for the committee to consider human services, such as a town sponsored food pantry.

Fairchild said the Recreation Department should be moved from its current building and the Visiting Nurse's Association, food pantry, and other human services organizations should be moved in there. Fairchild said youth sports should be privatized and only paid for by those playing them while the Recreation Department should have more activities for all age groups. She suggested a minimal renovation of the Lion's Club building, including bringing it up to code and making it ADA compliant.

"I think the building is probably completely usable if it is upgraded somewhat," Fairchild said, adding that the building then could be used as a community building and the green space around it could be made into a park, possibly with fields and a small playground.

Debbie Morgan, a parent and a coach, said a community center would be for people of all ages to gather. Morgan said places like fields and basketball courts would not necessarily be just for children but adults of all ages could use them for activities, such as pick-up games and exercise.

Morgan said there is really no place to go for any ages and it is often hard to get outside in the town.

"We need somewhere our children have a safe place to go as well as our seniors," Morgan said.

Morgan also said asking the schools to take over the Recreation Department "is absurd to me" and would be asking the school district to take on too much besides its job.

Lisa St. Amand said the current Recreation Department does not have enough space and soccer games have been missed because the field was flooded. St. Amand said sometimes children, especially young children, get out of their sports practices late at night. St. Amand said she wanted to see facilities that would benefit all ages.

"We clearly need something more than what we have in this town," St. Amand said.

St. Amand also said the majority of parents in the tow do not have the money to pay for their children to pay for private sports.

Jim Morrison said in business, laying bricks and mortar is the last thing that should be considered and other space options should be considered first. Morrison it had been 19 years since the soccer field at Playground Drive was proposed to be fixed and he was told by the school athletic director a schedule could be worked out with school fields. Morrison also mentioned the proposed study of the feasibility of combining town recreation services with school athletics that was agreed upon by the town and the school district. Morrison said a trailer could possibly be put by the schools to house the Recreation Department.

"In business, you put your business where your customers are, the customers are in the school building," Morrison said.

Fairchild said space could be found in the schools for the department and the Recreation Department could be moved from its current building and put in other locations, such as the schools and a refurbished Lion's Club building.

Recreation Director Donna Kuethe said moving the department facilities in such a way would require too much time running around from place to place. Kuethe said it is "contradictory" to criticize the Recreation Department for not offering more for seniors and proposing the department move to the schools and said it would not be good to have adults going into the school buildings on a regular basis during the school day to take part in recreation programs.

Kuethe said space is limited for programs.

"We're asked to do a job and we're not given the tools to do them," Kuethe said.

Moultonboro Academy Principal Andrew Coppinger said there is not any space at the academy to move the recreation department and the Athletic Director already has to take care of many other jobs such as maintaining NHIAA compliance. Coppinger and Tom Howard said plans were originally in place to build a middle school gym with the school buildings, but the gym was taken out of the plans to save money. Now the school is, according to Coppinger, "running three levels of programs with two gyms" with high school sports taking priority.

Donna Tatro, who works in the Recreation Department, said students will often practice in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Central School, which was not made to be a gym, and the stage space and tables often pose a hazard.

Kuethe said private sports do not carry the same requirements to put coaches through background checks and coach training is not as much of a requirement as it is in town recreation.

Stacey Hough said it is a benefit for children and youths of different ages to take part in the same programs. Hough said with some youths, "if they didn't have that, they would have gone down a completely horrible road."

"In a community like ours, I would love to see the older crowd and the younger crowd and the middle crowd coming together," Hough said. "People start to know their neighbors because we're not so divisive It's not about building the Taj Mahal; we don't want to build the elementary school without the gym again."

St. Amand said many youths in the community comment about being bored on their Facebook pages and distance between neighbors poses a problem.

"There isn't a meeting place for kids to get together, connect with mentors," St. Amand said. "How great it would be to have a place where the kids could get dropped off and are in a save environment?"

Committee Chair Erik Taylor said many wants have been heard and now the committee needs to find the needs. The committee will use the information at the meeting to deliberate and come up with a recommendation.

Committee member Dick Wakefield said the needs of the programs several years into the future must be considered including the decline of the school population.

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