2013-07-25 / News

Community forum scarcely attended

Town officials looking for resident feedback on recreational programs
By Margo Sullivan

Theater, music and special events enrich people’s lives and connect them to their community, according to a group of Jamestown residents who attended a forum last week to discuss how to improve the Recreation Department.

Seven residents participated in the 90-minute discussion, which was moderated by Rob Haley and Monica Lamboy, two consultants hired by the town to conduct a comprehensive study of recreational facilities and programs.

Haley and Lamboy are from the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts. Town Council President Kristine Trocki also attended.

“The task the council set for us is not a small one,” Lamboy said. “We’ve been asked to look at parks and recreation in multiple dimensions.”

According to Lamboy, the scope included everything from assessing the conditions of the parks, ball fields and facilities, to rating the quality of the programs. The consultants are also supposed to come up with suggestions for the future, she said.

Three public meetings have been scheduled over four weeks to give people a chance to speak up.

The first meeting on July 16 dealt with special events and the arts.

“Why do you care about arts and culture?” Lamboy asked. “What brought you out tonight?”

Residents Lois Migneault, Chris Walsh, Mary Wright, Lisa Rafferty, Barbara Lundy, Annie McIntyre and Meg Myles participated.

Wright, artistic director of the Jamestown Community Theatre, said the arts enrich people’s lives, and that’s the case for both “kids and adults.”

Rafferty added many artists and musicians live on the island. Jamestown is a small town, she said, but is located “in a very beautiful part of the country, so the value of aesthetics is very high for people.”

McIntyre said participating in the arts, such as performing in theater, also has some practical benefits. For example, theater classes help young people learn how to speak in public.

Rafferty said the arts connect people of different ages and keep the community “strong.”

Lamboy, who was writing comments down on an easel, said she heard a few important words: cross-generational, youth and community.

“Also transients,” Rafferty said. For newcomers or people who are in town temporarily, like the military families, the arts offer a way to become connected, she said.

“You meet good people,” Wright said. “It’s a leveler. All types of people get involved.”

“Some of the exercise programs at the golf course were attended by military wives,” Migneault added.

Everyone agreed that recreational programs are a convenient way to meet other residents.

Lamboy said it was good that “sub-populations” in town were meeting each other, but wanted to know more about how recreation figures into economic development.

Trocki said events like the fireworks display definitely brings people downtown and help the restaurants and shops.

Some of the restaurants offer a 10-percent discount on theater nights, Wright said.

Lamboy then asked about the types of buildings and public spac- es, which the residents might like to see in the future. Given the fact the golf course building is being replaced, she said, there could be opportunity to develop new facilities. She invited people to “think big” about the possibilities.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said.

Rafferty suggested an auditorium.

“That’s the type of space we do not currently have,” Lamboy said.

Lundy said a community swimming pool, if money were available to finance it.

Lamboy asked about the potential for a black box theater.

“We’d love to do black box theater,” Wright said. A black box theater refers to a small performance space enclosed by black walls. The space could be used for dance classes, she said.

Lamboy also suggested a multipurpose room for the country club.

“I’ve seen some lovely buildings on golf courses where you would go to have a wedding,” she said.

Walsh said the demographics are changing in town, so eventually the demand for programs will change. The programs will dictate some of the space needs, he suggested.

Lamboy asked about future programs the residents would like to see.

“I’d love to see speakers on different topics,” Lundy said.

Lamboy said policy decisions would ultimately shape the rec department’s future. The Town Council will make the policy, Trocki said, and that’s why the councilors wanted a study of the department.

The consultants are supplementing the public meetings with a survey, which is now available online and by hard copy. Last week the survey went live on the town’s website. The paper survey will be sent to residents as an insert in the Jamestown Press and will also be available at several locations in town.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser suggested the two-tiered approach due to concerns most people would not go to a meeting on a summer night.

As Keiser predicted, Tuesday’s session was sparsely attended. Most of the residents who came to the forum are involved in arts, culture and community organizations.

Rafferty is executive director of Bridges Inc., and Lundy owns Jamestown Fitness. Wright and McIntyre are both involved with the theater, and Myles is the director of the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation. Migneault and Walsh are active in the Jamestown Historical Society.

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