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Recreation group to reorganize; Members quit in 2008, citing lack of effectiveness


May 19, 2011

The Haines Borough Assembly on May 10 advanced an ordinance that would form an advisory committee for parks and recreation programs, resurrecting a group that went dormant in 2008.

The ordinance would re-establish the borough’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board as a committee, with more limited powers, and is scheduled for a second public hearing on Tuesday.

Even with more powers delegated to them, three members resigned from the board in November 2008 and recommended that it be dissolved, citing a lack of authority.

"Mostly, we don’t feel effective," Judy Ewald, committee chair and member for three years, said at the time. "We don’t have a budget or control over anything."

She said the board wasn’t necessary then, since the borough did not yet have a parks and recreation department. That department is included in borough code, with a purpose "to maintain, promote, and facilitate the use of borough-owned parks and recreational facilities; and to facilitate recreational activities in general in the Haines Borough," but no such department is in place.

Local organizations such as the Well and Fit Community Council have promoted the development of a Haines community recreation center in recent months.

Assembly member Daymond Hoffman requested that the parks and recreation item be placed on the May 10 agenda. He said his proposal for a re-established borough advisory committee is not directly tied to a possible recreation center, although he has voiced support for one.

"More than anything, my goal is recreation in general," Hoffman said. "I thought there was a need for some sort of organization within the borough, and then as the bike club formed and having met with quite a few of the Well and Fit members, it just seems like there’s a need to have some sort of cohesive organization so that everybody can kind of get on the same page."

Borough manager Mark Earnest said the previous roles of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board were "inconsistent with a manager form of government."

"It was an advisory board before; that was the title of it, but in the text of the duties, for example, it was more than advisory," Earnest said. "It had a great amount of actual authority in terms of expending funds and establishing rules and procedures and policies, and none of those things are allowed in any board and even the Planning Commission doesn’t have that authority."

The proposed ordinance keeps a chair, vice chair and secretary for the group, but eliminates the office of treasurer.

The previous responsibilities of providing a plan for scheduling use of parks and recreation facilities; developing sources of revenue; estimating upcoming revenues and expenditures; making rules and regulations for the administration and control of the borough’s Community Youth Development (CYD) program; allocating borough-appropriated funds for staffing; and reviewing applications for CYD director to make a hiring recommendation to the borough manager also have been removed from the ordinance.

The ordinance states the re-established Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will "advise the borough in the operation and maintenance of parks and recreation programs, facilities, and activities" and "members will be appointed to reflect the diversity of user groups in the Haines Borough."

"What it does is it really creates, I think, a good framework for getting a group of people who are interested in advancing recreational and park-related interests and ideas and talking about them," Earnest said. "It’s getting some discussion going and coordinating those ideas with the administration and the assembly, so there’s a good forum for this information to get discussed in an organized fashion."

The committee would have seven members to serve staggered, three-year terms without monetary compensation. The CYD coordinator, a part-time borough staffer, would be an ex officio committee member.

Assemblyman Hoffman is active in a local hockey club and said amenities such as biking and jogging trails would appeal to a wide range of athletes. He said expanded recreational opportunities also might draw more visitors to town.

"It’s not only the recreation for us, but the economic potential is there," Hoffman said. "For example, we went to Haines Junction at the end of January, and there were probably 60 or 70 people at that hockey tournament, and most of those people were staying in hotels and eating dinner out and things like that."