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City, schools plan to launch website and online catalog for summer activities

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The St. Helens School District school board discusses the parks program partnership during a work session on Wednesday, April 11. While the final parks catalog is still being finalized, the school board looked over mockups of what the catalog might look like on Wednesday.Two public agencies in St. Helens are partnering to provide a program that will provide residents with information about recreational activities taking place throughout the community.

The city of St. Helens and the St. Helens School District announced Tuesday, April 10, in a press release that they will publish a recreation calendar and catalog at the end of the month featuring a cohesive collection of activities taking place in St. Helens over the summer months.

St. Helens City Finance Director Matt Brown explained that the partnership between the two entities is not designed to take over any program that currently exists, but rather as a way to "connect the dots of what already exists."

"There's obviously a lot of youth sport activities that go on, and we're not trying to take over that realm," Brown said. "But, if you're new to the community, there's not really a place where you can go and see what's offered."

The city plans to launch a page on its website later this month that highlights various programs and will also provide a place for community groups to submit material that can be published online or in the catalog, according to the press release.

Representatives from the city and school district have been meeting since December to develop the partnership.

"Partnering with the City of St. Helens and launching a park and recreation district will provide healthy options for the children of our community after school, on the weekends and during the summer," Superintendent Scot Stockwell stated in an email to the Spotlight. "A robust park and recreation district that provides options for students in our community helps them understand they are valued."

There is no immediate plan to establish a parks and recreation tax district.

By working with the schools, there is more access to gymnasiums, sports fields and other building space, Brown stated.

To start, the city is planning to host several small programs — monthly craft nights and drop-in athletic activities like basketball and volleyball. Eventually, the city may develop a more extensive offering of recreation programs.

The initial purpose of launching the parks and recreation program will be to provide a centrally located resource for residents to access, Brown explained.

"The eventual goal is to increase programing activities that are going on in the city. As of right now, we wanted to get started on a small-scale basis," Brown explained.

Stockwell added that developing a parks and recreation program could be beneficial to the city.

"A partnership like this is a win-win and something that has been long overdue in this community. As the recreational opportunities increase the City and School District will share the cost of maintaining and improving facilities," Stockwell stated. "When we share the costs, we save taxpayer money while adding value to our community. Vibrant communities such as Springfield, Newberg, Beaverton and Sherwood all have partnerships between School Districts and Park and Recreation and it is something our community deserves too."

The budget committee is also discussing the possibility of including a recreation coordinator position in the city's budget for the next fiscal year, Brown explained. A detailed job description would be developed later if the position is ultimately approved.

The city is promoting an online survey from now until May 4 to gather feedback about what other parks and recreation activities should be highlighted in the future. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/sthelensrecsurvey.

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