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Tigard's recreation guru aims to bring more options to residents

Voters shot down two recreation programs over the past two decades, but city studies say residents want more recreation options.

Anthony MarkeyHot on the heels of a failed ballot measure aimed at providing more recreational options to city residents, Tigard’s new recreation coordinator is settling into his new job.

Anthony Markey, of Garden Home, was hired as the city’s new recreation coordinator last fall. He's tasked with doing something the city of Tigard has tried — and failed — to do before: Bring more recreation options to city residents.

The former aquatics manager at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Southwest Portland, Markey’s new position tasks him with coordinating and implementing new sports programs, recreational classes, special events and activities around town.

“We want to offer programs down the road,” Markey said. “We want to have recreation classes and establish a scholarship program for people that can’t afford them.”

Tigard has long been one of the only area cities without a recreation program.

“Recreation is the key,” Markey said. “Tualatin Hills, Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, Tualatin — they all have recreation programs that we’d love to strive for.”

But adding those programs is easier said than done. With no program of its own, Tigard’s local businesses have filled the void left by the city.

Markey said that finding a way for both private enterprise and a city recreation program to work together will be important.

“I envision the city offering introductory classes and other programs,” Markey said. “If we already have a Little League, then maybe we have an ‘Intro to Baseball’ class and then we can push them to the programs that are already offered. We can also offer classes in things that aren’t currently offered.”

Markey said he's hoping to see some preliminary classes up and running by this summer or fall.

"We are starting from scratch here and I want to make sure that I have all my ducks in a row before we offer any classes," he said.

An uphill battle

Residents have been asking the city to bring more recreational options to town for years.

A study aimed at implementing a recreation program in Tigard released last year said that residents wanted more recreational options in town. Every candidate in the 2014 City Council election said it was a priority, and Councilor Marc Woodard has been pushing to bring more recreation under the umbrella of city’s services since he was first elected in 2010.

It’s currently listed as one of the priorities for the City Council.

But that hasn’t meant it has been easy to accomplish.

In 2000, voters shot down a plan for Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood to form their own park district, which would have been similar to the Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreation District in the Beaverton area.

That wasn’t the only time the city has tried to get more involved in the business of recreation.

Last year, residents petitioned the Tigard City Council to put a ballot measure before voters that would have funded construction of a new community center last year. That measure failed with voters, who argued that plans for the center were unclear.

The $34.5 million bond measure was shot down by voters last November after proponents of the center advertised that it would be run by the YMCA — complete with a swimming pool — and sited in downtown Tigard, promises that the city said it couldn’t guarantee.

'It brings communities closer together'

Markey stays well clear of the controversial recreation center ballot measure when he speaks. He says his job is to stay neutral.

"I really just want the citizens of Tigard to enjoy recreation and to offer opportunities for families to enjoy recreation (who) might not have a chance to (before)," he said.

Markey said he isn’t sure whether or not a community center is the right approach for Tigard right now, but said that there are steps that the city can take to make recreation more available to residents.

“My idea is just to promote recreation, whether that’s a yoga class, or youth soccer, or a 5k down the road,” he said. “Every week in Cook Park people hold 5ks for charities. I’d love to partner with them, to say we have recreation coordinator now and incorporate the community any way we can.”

Last year, the city and Metzger Elementary School entered into a partnership, allowing the school’s grounds to be used as a park outside of school hours.

Markey will also take over coordination of two new city events, an egg hunt at Cook Park this spring, and Public Works Day in April.

Markey said those opportunities are great ways to get people excited and engaged about recreation.

“Every city needs a recreation program,” he said. “It brings families closer together. It brings communities closer together.”

By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor
The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood
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