Lack of participation dooms Parks and Recreations programs

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WALLA WALLA -- A free Saturday program geared toward keeping youths active during the winter has been dropped by the Department of Parks and Recreation because of a lack of participation.

The Open Gym program had run for several years at Berney, Garrison and Green Park elementary schools, operating Saturdays noon to 3 p.m. from November to March.

Three winters ago, the program served 325 kids. But the last two winters saw numbers drop more than half, to about 150 per season, with only a few children utilizing the program at each school, said Recreation Supervisor Andy Coleman.

"We are currently evaluating our programs to see which ones are worthwhile; with indoor soccer we will have close to 400 kids," Coleman said.

He added that even though the youth indoor soccer program has a $45 fee, it has grown in popularity while Open Gym diminished.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont added that the cuts were not based on budget constraints but low numbers, he said.

"We had an excellent revenue year during a downturn of the economy. Why? Probably because some people were staying home and enjoying their recreation locally," Dumont said.

Two other programs cut in 2010 because of low participation are the Punt, Pass & Kick and Youth Basketball Hot Spot programs. Both were one-day events that took place in local elementary schools.

Adult three-on-three basketball was also cut due to low participation, Dumont said.

In an attempt to create diversity by providing more than sports activities, Dumont said the department will add a number of art programs next year for adults and children.

"The real issue is trying to determine what the market need is and to provide opportunities," he added.

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