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Parks, youth programs and community center topics of interest for Sunnyside's Promise

Sunnyside's Promise is concerned about the future of youth programs, parks and the Sunnyside Community Center.

They discussed these issues with community members and leaders at yesterday's meeting in the Denny Blaine Building's board room.

Director Lisa Fairbairn said there are a number of programs sponsored by the Sunnyside Recreation Department that will be affected with the loss of the community center and city parks, if the city council does agree to eliminate both from the city budget.

She said the purpose of yesterday's meeting was to discuss ideas to help the youth continue participating in programs offered by the recreation department.

Fairbairn said the community center hosts more than five youth camps per year, numerous programs during the summer, winter and spring break programs and oversees sports programs within the community.

"For instance, soccer is very popular in this community," Fairbairn stated, saying that sport and others will be affected if the parks and the community center are closed.

She went on to say she feels some programs might be able to be eliminated or overseen by other youth programs. She said the community's Cal Ripken baseball program might be able to support the baseball programs for younger children and AAU basketball programs might be able to support the basketball programs sponsored by the city.

"I don't see why they can't," Fairbairn commented.

Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenk spoke in the capacity of both an officer and community member. He told those at the meeting that if one park were to be closed, all the parks would have to be closed. Therefore, the option of closing a few parks that are underutilized would not solve the issues involved in maintaining the city's parks.

Of all the parks, Schenk said Sunnyview Park on Yakima Valley Highway is the least expensive to maintain, primarily because of the fact that water is supplied to the park via irrigation. He said water and labor are the two highest cost factors involved with the city's parks.

Sunnyside's Promise Vice Chairman John Hughes suggested labor costs could be eliminated by volunteers willing to maintain the parks.

Rev. Larry Mays agreed, stating the city has the equipment necessary and is open to volunteers willing to provide the labor of maintaining the parks. He said there has also been discussions of providing irrigation water to South Hill Park.

Suzi Carpino spoke, stating she feels the city already pays for irrigation at South Hill Park and feels it would be a good idea if that irrigation water was accessed for the purpose of providing water there.

Hughes weighed in stating volunteers within neighborhoods surrounding the city parks could work together, providing maintenance at the parks.

He did, however, state that community efforts spearheaded by volunteers need sustainability.

Schenk agreed and said the issue of the community center is more difficult because a person would need to be committed to the center on a full-time (year around) basis, whereas the parks are a part-time responsibility.

Monica Guillen of the Sunnyside Youth Recreation Association, a non-profit organization, said she feels many of the youth program coordinators could work together, combining efforts under her organization's umbrella. As a larger entity, with non-profit status, the programs would qualify for grants.

She said, "I would like to see the programs grow." She added continuing the programs for youth provides ways to occupy their time.

"Otherwise, they will find other ways to occupy their time," said Guillen.

The group discussed the fact that the city is open to suggestions and cooperative efforts and agreed further research into the issues is necessary.

"Sometimes lean times are the best times...mobilizing community members to support and develop ideas for sustaining services," said Hughes prior to the group agreeing to meet again.

Sunnyside's Promise will research the costs involved in funding the programs, parks and community center. They will gather again next Thursday, Sept. 4, to discuss the three issues and form sub-committees willing to develop ideas for providing youth programs, a community center and parks to the city of Sunnyside.

The meeting will again be held at the Denny Blaine Building on Custer Avenue. It will take place at noon.

The public, civic groups and all who are interested in helping with Sunnyside's Promise's efforts are invited to attend.

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