Letter: Locals need a rec center
On June 17, I read with interest Mr. Wood’s eloquent letter advancing his position that expending any monies towards the city’s recreation center and swim complex would be foolish and wasteful. He put forth many reasons for his conclusion and, on the surface, his argument seems sound. I, on the other hand, disagree with Mr. Wood and here are the reasons why I hold an alternate position. The recreation center is well used and would be used more if it was better maintained. The rec center would be in a better condition if previous city councils had not siphoned off the money the people of South Lake Tahoe voted to be used for recreation. If you read the city code that established the Transient Occupancy Tax, you will read that TOT money can be used for recreation. Unfortunately, it has rarely (if ever) been used for that purpose. Instead, the recreation department must compete with other vital services for general funds. Of course, our limited dollars will go first to police and fire, road maintenance and planning.
I have come to believe that this siphoning came about because many council members share Mr. Wood’s philosophy that urban-style recreation doesn’t need to be provided in South Lake Tahoe. If your children need to recreate, let them take a hike or go swim in the lake. This is such a misinformed position.
South Lake Tahoe is not just a tourist destination; it is also a community. It is a home for 20,000 year-round people — people with children. After living here for over 30 years, I always smile when I hear someone say with pride that they were born at Barton or graduated from South Tahoe High. The community has residents of all ages who depend on the recreation department for services. Our seniors have specialized recreation needs; our mature adults have specialized recreation needs; our young adults have specialized recreation needs; and our children have specialized recreation needs.
Is it realistic to expect parents to teach their child to swim in Lake Tahoe or a group of seniors holding a water exercise in Lake Tahoe? Have we forgotten about the lake’s year-round temperature and hypothermia? Are you really going to send your children or yourself to swim in Lake Tahoe in January? The lake is only available for swimming a very few days a year — then what, Mr. Wood? To live in South Lake Tahoe and not play organized sports or drop-in basketball or take a fitness class or ice skate is to not have a complete and healthy life. The rec center is the heart of the recreation experience in South Lake Tahoe.
I, for one, will not accept a city government that would abandon the rec center so the money could be used for SnowGlobe music festival or another golf tournament. Our community must come first.
If the recreational needs of the people is not a sufficient reason for properly maintaining the rec center, here is another one. The rec center is the designated emergency location for the City of South Lake Tahoe. Back in the 1990s, FEMA came to town to help the city prepare for a disaster. They examined all the possible locations here and determined the rec center was the best location for servicing our community during an emergency. Some of the reasons they gave were its central location, size of the center, proximity to emergency services, and the facilities ability to provide for the dislocated (the center has a full kitchen). These were just a few of FEMA’s reasons. Modernizing the center will enable the city to include modern communication technology upgrades and expand the facility to better provide emergency services.
If the city council is advancing an improvement to the rec center, well done and long overdue. Council members, you are on the right track for the people of South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.