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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Recreational programming in Adrian on the rise after 2021 revival – The Daily Telegram

ADRIAN — After not offering recreation services dating back to almost 2013, the city of Adrian has been able to sustain and promote recreation services for one year now after reviving recreational programming last fall. 
Because of positively trending budgets and cashflow, the city was able to bring recreation back into its offerings toward the tail end of 2021. It also was financially able to hire a parks and recreation director. Jeremiah Davies filled that role near the conclusion of last year.
Recreation programs offered by the city were being cut as far back as 2008 to save money. Because of financial turmoils brought on by the Great Recession, Adrian was forced to consolidate its parks and recreation department into parks and engineering services in 2013. Adrian Public Schools and the YMCA of Lenawee County — now the Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA — picked up the recreation programs during that time.
“It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited to see where we’re going,” Davies said Nov. 7 when addressing the Adrian City Commission during its premeeting work study session, which was wholly devoted to an update from the parks and recreation department.
Davies was officially hired as the parks and recreation director Nov. 8, 2021.
While Adrian Public Schools and the Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA still handle much of the recreational programming, the city has a seat at the table.
As part of its longstanding partnership with the Adrian schools, the city is committed to $30,000 per year which covers equipment, operating supplies, site supervisors, coaches and more to help the program run in its current state.
“As part of this initiative, we give the school district first rights to our fields: soccer fields, baseball, softball, cross country, which they use the trails heavily,” Davies said. “It is a smooth partnership, and something that was going on really before me.”
Prior to becoming Adrian’s parks and recreation director, Davies was the director of community recreation and communications for Adrian Public Schools. Now with the city — and with some changeover at the schools — Davies said he works regularly with Adrian schools Athletic Director Chad O’Brien and the school’s strength development and recreation coordinator, Toby Ernst, to put recreational offerings into action.
As of now, Adrian schools offers year-round recreational programming, which is open to Adrian city children and also students who attend Adrian Public Schools in kindergarten through sixth grade. Programming offered by the school district includes football, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, track, cross country, lacrosse, volleyball, golf and soccer.
In a recent update this fall, more than 250 kids were involved in recreation at the public schools, Davies told the commission.
Programming is also affordable, which is a plus. Participation prices in recreational sports range from $20-$25, depending on the sport. If, however, students or city resident families cannot afford those charges, no one is turned away, Davies said. An established scholarship program ensures money flows into the recreational funding.
O’Brien, who is also fairly new to his position with Adrian Public Schools, attended the Nov. 7 meeting virtually and provided the commission with a sport-by-sport look at participation numbers from the fall. He joined the school district as its athletic director Nov. 22, 2021.
“Jeremiah and I really kind of partnered to make sure that things were streamlined and made sense for both of us,” O’Brien said. “And so there’s nothing that goes on in recreation that we don’t talk about first.”
Participation numbers in sports across the board at the middle and high school levels are “up drastically,” O’Brien said, which he credited as a direct benefit from the recreation program. 
“We’re starting as a district to see the benefits that the recreation program has really paid for us. Continuing to make sure we work together and kind of clean it up, I think, is really what what we’re trying to do. I think now we have people in place that aren’t going anywhere,” O’Brien said.
The school district-municipality partnership, in regards to recreation, is a model that is really growing across the country, Davies said.
“A lot of communities like ours, at some point, had to step away from recreation for whatever reason those may be, and you’re seeing it kind of growing across the country, where school districts are starting to partner with the city and saying, ‘How can we help each other out and bringing recreation back to our kids?’” Davies said.
Most of the adult recreation offered within Adrian comes from the Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA, which also offers some youth recreation. The YMCA operates activities and recreational swimming programs at Bohn Pool.
Some of its major programming, Davies said, includes softball at Heritage Park, indoor volleyball at the Piotter Center, sand volleyball in the summer at Riverside Park, and, during the winter months, pickleball at the Piotter Center.
There is, however, some recreational programming starting to duplicate between Adrian Public Schools and the YMCA, Davies said.
“There’s a number of things that we’re starting to see where APS has stuff going on, but we also see that with the YMCA having the same stuff going on. It makes no sense to duplicate services,” he said. “We want to have concentrated programming, instead of splitting kids. We want kids going to one program and one entity.”
The agreement between the city and the YMCA is out of date, Davies said, specifically highlighting the definition of what “recreational sports” should mean.
Some sports offered through the YMCA offer discounts if people are members of the YMCA. Other programs, Davies referenced, are much more competitive and require several hundreds of dollars in participation and travel fees.
“Recreational sports is about fun and fundamentals. It’s not about winning. It’s about learning the game and having fun, while not worrying about the financial costs of being involved,” Davies said.
The current agreement with the YMCA rolls over every three years and automatically stays in place, unless the language in the agreement is updated at the consensus of both parties. Davies said he has spoken with the YMCA about making some changes to the recreational agreement with the city, which the organization has been open to hearing, he said.
One of Adrian’s most heavily used parks for large-scale events is Heritage Park, Davies said, which he referred to as the city’s “flagship” of its parks.
Currently, the city does not have a fee structure that addresses charges for large-scale events that essentially shut down the entire park to other users.
All people have to do is pay the shelter rental fee of $65 — regardless of the size of the event — to encompass entire fields within the park. Davies said he and Adrian City Administrator Greg Elliott have been reviewing potential changes to the fee structure when renting out portions of the parks, whether that be through a special rental/event fee, an acreage rental fee or charging customers to rent park space via quadrants.
Specifically, this summer, at least 500 youth bikers held a mountain biking event at Heritage Park, which was great for the city, Davies said, but at the same time was a strain on the park system, city employees and residents wanting to utilize the park. The fee that was paid by the organizers of the biking event would have been the $65 shelter rental fee, however, the organization offered the city $500 for its services, which was accepted, Davies said.
“Our fee structure is really kind of adjusted to just the shelters,” he said.
There are no costs to people if they simply want to visit the parks or utilize the playgrounds. Costs only come into play when shelters are being rented or when events are expected to take up much of the park.
“We want people to go out and use the services,” commissioner Mary Roberts said. “We want to make sure that people know they can use the (parks) services without cost. The difference is whether you are excluding other people. Then there should be a charge.”
Commissioner Allen Heldt said additional investigation into a change in the park fee schedule appears to be needed.
“We can still allow for people to rent the shelters if they want to for a small gathering or a birthday party, but if you’re taking up 75 acres of park space, that’s a whole other discussion and fee schedule,” he said.
Davies closed his update with a review of some of the projects at the parks that took place this summer. Highlights included:
For the 2023 parks budget forecast, Davies said the parks and recreation department wants to address all park playground equipment after a certified playground specialist identified issues with each playground earlier this year.
“Anything that was deemed unsafe, we’ve already removed out of the park. Now, there’s just some things that we want to tighten up going forward,” Davies said.
Other updates planned for the next year include a resurfacing of the basketball courts at Dunlap and Parish parks, continued work on the Trestle Park infrastructure, more lighting across the city parks, and bathroom and security upgrades.


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