Asset assessment

Representatives from The Sports Facilities Companies visit with Heber Springs alderman Melissa Choate and Heber Springs Mayor Jimmy Clark on the basketball courts of the Heber Springs Community Center.

Members of the Heber Springs City Council met with representatives from a facilities development and management company to talk about the needs, opportunities, and challenges facing recreation programs in small towns.

Developing a wider range of program offerings, and people, specifically, volunteers dedicated to implementing those programs, emerged as some of the recurring needs identified for Heber Springs, population 7,500.

In a rural community with creeks, ponds, and a big lake learning the basics of swimming at a young age can be a lifesaver.

In Batesville, the Kiwanis Club, a civic organization, partnered with the school and all this week third graders from Eagle Mountain Elementary are attending basic swimming lessons free of charge at the Batesville Community Center and Aquatics Park this week. Each morning students attend a session and then participate in a free-swim event Friday.

Another theme that emerged during the discussion was the concept of competitive versus recreational.

Take for instance Dr. Andy Ashley superintendent of the Heber Springs School District. In Cedar Ridge his daughter honed her basketball skills in a variety of programs coordinated by volunteers. She started out in the Little Dribblers program that teaches young elementary students the basics of dribbling and moving while dribbling. The next level was the Shooting Stars, a program that taught the basics of shooting the ball. For children who want to build that fundamental skill-set for high school athletics, volunteers are needed to learn the drills necessary for those programs.On the other hand, there are children and parents who are perfectly happy in a recreational league.

The two levels of play: Competitive and recreational, both require volunteers to make that happen, and community centers can serve as the organizational hub for those volunteers and programs. Hypothetically, high school students who need to complete community service projects could help with the programs.

Another theme was how to put more outreach back in the community center, without becoming a YMCA. Again, that’s where volunteers are needed to take the good things the community center offers out to the community. The potential is enormous, but the volunteer enthusiam gap needs filling by energetic volunteers.

For example, not all parents can pay or commit the time for swimming lessons for their children, but some parents might be interested in a free, couple of hours-long, water safety basics class taught at Sandy Beach by first-responders. Volunteers could organize morning walking groups for the trail system for seniors, women, or families.

Additionally, the more volunteer-based programs the center could offer, the more pay-for-programming the center could offer tourists, sun-burned and looking for air-conditioned, indoor recreation opportunities during the hottest months of summer.

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