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By Dan Rudy 

Parks and Recreation summer season comes to close


Wrangell’s Parks and Recreation Department has wound down its summer programming, and its advisory board began looking ahead to off-season maintenance and future projects at its Sept. 2 meeting.

Department head Kate Thomas reported 22 extra staffers were hired this summer to administer courses and programs including a pilot program for the adult swim club, the annual Summer Recreation Program, new yoga and fitness courses, and two sessions of the Learn-to-Swim program.

Following a lengthy closure of the pool for repairs, Thomas reported aquatics programming is back on track, with six lifeguards certified; four of these will still be available for service in the coming season. However, as winter approaches Thomas said facilitating a lifeguard course is necessary to maintain safety. Working with Petersburg, the recreation department will be hosting instructor Judy Forgey from Sept. 18 to 20. Registration for the course opened late last month, and Thomas said she hoped to have a full class of eight signed up.

Thomas herself will travel to California to obtain certification as a lifeguard instructor, which would give Wrangell’s instruction program greater autonomy. Likewise, she said new recreation coordinator Bridget Davidson will obtain the same credentials once she returns from maternity leave.

Davidson was named the new coordinator late last month. She’s worked the past three years with Wrangell School District as well as the parks department, and she has a background in health and physical education, with a masters in secondary education.

“I’m very excited to be part of the team,” Davidson told the parks board. “I foresee really good things.”

Another recent change within the department was the adoption of a new fee schedule for recreation facilities. The new rates went into effect Sept. 1 and dispense with the department’s previous corporate discount rate. Under the new schedule, participating businesses’ employees can still obtain a flat five-percent discount on individual passes.

Admissions have changed for individual users as well, with patrons able to purchase punch cards for use of the pool, weight room and showers, or else invest in monthly, quarterly, half-year or annual pass in several age categories.

Family rates will now be centered around a couples rate, defined as two adults in a domestic partnership. The base yearly rate for a pass begins at $583, with $50 added for each child. Under a previous draft schedule, a flat $864 family rate had been proposed, regardless of size, and would have increased substantially over the next few years.

Thomas reported that the transition has been successful so far, and frustrations have been minimal. Pool attendance has been up, and in the first four days the department had brought in $3,000; for the whole month of July the department had brought in around $7,000.

“That’s actually gone really well,” Thomas related. As far as pool attendance went, she hypothesized the increase could be due to several factors, including heightened interest after its reopening in the spring.

The rules on who can swim unattended have also been clarified. Users need to be at least four feet tall and seven years old, or else be able to swim one width of the pool with a crawl stroke. Users not meeting those requirements need to be accompanied in the water by someone aged 14 or older. Under pool rules, one adult can supervise up to three children.

For maintenance, some chemical adjustments will continue, and the caulking and sealant in the pool needs to be touched up around its underwater lights. Other than that, Thomas reported the repairs are holding up well. Asbestos abatement at the adjoining community center was also completed this summer, with work finishing in June.

Swim Club’s youth season also began on Sept. 1, with around 20 swimmers enrolled and more on a waiting list. Club participants will be required to purchase a facility pass this year, and a memorandum of understanding between the club and the department is nearly complete.

Team selection for youth basketball will begin next week, with Davidson working with Athletic Amateur Union-league coaches Penny and Gary Allen and Stikine Middle School coach Laurie Brown to coordinate the program.

The shooting range has been closed for repairs after damage was sustained several weeks ago. Materials for repairing the floor and foundation were obtained, and work is expected to be complete by this weekend. The department expects to address roof leakage issues there next.

Trail extension around Mount Dewey also remains on the agenda, with Wrangell slated to receive its match funding from the Commercial Passenger Vessel excise tax fund. Estimated at $483,700 in all, appropriations for the trail may be received by 2018.


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