2013-08-01 / News

Residents mull adult activities

By Margo Sullivan

Residents met on Tuesday to discuss the town’s adult and senior recreation programs with Monica Lamboy, a consultant from the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts.

Attendance was sparse, but the ideas were abundant. Residents Ed Holland and Bruce Livingston, both involved with the senior center, discussed developing new offerings for the community by building partnerships, both on and off the island.

Holland and Livingston said the senior center is a potential rec department partner. The two want to develop more programs for seniors, Holland said, and a partnership with the town might be one way to proceed.

“We struggle frankly in reaching out to seniors,” Holland said.

Livingston said transportation is one of the ongoing problems.

The seniors were supposed to share a bus, which the town purchased, but the bus has frequently been unavailable for the seniors.

Livingston said some older residents don’t like to go out at night, and some want door-to-door transportation.

Councilor Mary Meagher and School Committee member Ryan Conlon also attended the meeting.

The consultants agreed to hold three public meetings on the rec department, in addition to conducting a survey, which is available online and was delivered to each residence last week. Residents have until Aug. 16 to respond. The paper version is also available at numerous locations around town.

Lamboy and colleague Rob Haley were hired by the town to conduct a comprehensive study of recreational facilities and programs. Haley did not attend the meeting on July 30, but Lamboy said he will be back next week for the third and final session of public outreach designed to collect ideas to improve the Recreation Department’s programs and facilities. The last topic will focus on programs for youth.

Holland said he was not aware of the adult sailing program. He also did not know about many offerings there are for adults and seniors.

“I’m surprised to see that many programs being offered by the rec department,” Holland said. “It’s nice to know the guys down there are doing their jobs.”

But he also wondered if there is a communications problem.

“I don’t know they’re getting that message out to us,” he said.

Lamboy said this was a “nice problem” to have and suggested it was easy to fix.

Livingston said Lamboy might want to visit the senior center in Wickford to get ideas.

Later, Lamboy asked the residents to “think big” and identify some future directions Jamestown could take, if money were no object.

Livingston said the senior center on West Street could become a place to go after a big event, like the fireworks display.

“There would be meals, and, periodically, fancy meals,” he said. One example Livingston mentioned, residents could be invited to a buffet after the Memorial Day parade.

Lamboy asked what the future senior center, for example, would look like.

Holland said it would be open more. Today it’s closed for much of the afternoons. It would also be used more, and more people would come in to socialize.

Lamboy asked the average number of people using the center.

“A good day would be a dozen people,” Holland said.

Livingston suggested the numbers might improve if the bus could be made more convenient.

Meagher asked if Holland and Livingston thought the senior center should offer more programs.

“There’s a certain stigma right now with the senior center,” Holland said. “We don’t offer as much as we should.”

Livingston said an agreement with Conanicut Grange – where the center is located – against alcohol use in the building was another issue.

“There are some lease restrictions,” Holland said.

Nonetheless, he thought the senior center could apply to the Town Council for a liquor license for a special event.

“I think the grange is very excited about us using the building,” Holland said. The deal gave the senior center a 99-year lease and provided the building with a new roof, boiler and other improvements.

“We’d be happy to show you the facility,” he told Lamboy. He said the building looks much the way it did in the 1930s, but “spiffed up a bit.”

Lamboy asked about attractions that adults and seniors like.

“What brings people out of their houses?” she said.

“Fireworks,” Livingston replied, adding the fireworks displays are important events.

Holland said he liked Livingston’s idea about using the senior center as a place to go after events as a way to build up the facility to become “more of a social meeting place.” All age groups would be welcome, he said.

One Halloween, Livingston said, the facility was turned into a haunted house, and that proved to be a popular event.

“It was a super show,” he said.

Livingston said seniors also come out for concerts and sailing competitions. Jamestown has added boating facilities, with a new ramp at Fort Getty, for example, and those facilities are important to residents, he said.

Holland said years ago Jamestown did more in connection with Newport. Livingston said partnerships with other senior centers might also be pursued as a way to expand the recreational opportunities.

Conlon said he would like to have opportunities to play some basketball, but he was not sure if the rec center offered any games. He checked on the website and reported, in fact, the rec center does offer adult basketball and soccer.

Holland and Livingston said islanders also enjoy the parks and go sometimes just for a change of scene. They also use the golf course. Overall, they feel the rec department does a good job on maintenance. In summary, Lamboy said transportation is one issue that needs improvement. Parking is sometimes a problem at the beach, for example. Jamestown also may need more adult sports facilities with storage.

Meagher said the town could use more lecture series. The arts center and the library provide some, she said.

Among the big ideas, Holland suggested building a field house with a swimming pool.

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