The Daily Southerner
“Great ideas” were gleaned from the M.A. Ray Center focus group meeting Monday night, as participants worked to come up with methods increasing participation at the facility.
The meeting was requested by the Tarboro Town Council after Tarboro Parks & Recreation Director Cheryl Gay, submitted a revised schedule that changed the center’s operating hours. The new schedule brought about an array of questions by the council concerning the participation at the center, which had reportedly dwindled to an all-time low.
The focus group discussed ideas that would increase the utilization of the center swimming pool and Clark Park, and barriers that are keeping patrons from visiting the facilities. All three of the facilities are geographically connected.
One of the main barriers discussed was fees. Some programs are fee-oriented and the focus group believed the fees have stunted participation.
In one example, Gay explained that a Zumba class began with free admission and it was well-attended. After a fee was assessed, participation dwindled. Gay said fees are required to pay instructors.
Other barriers discussed included a lack of parental involvement, lack of advertisement, poor lighting and the perception of the center.
The group also discussed ideas for increasing usage of Clark Park. During its hey-day, Clark Park’s baseball and softball diamonds were used as often as the town’s state-of-the-art Indian Lake fields. Traveling community softball teams filled the fields on weekends and during the weekdays, the fields were used by the industrial softball league. Martin Middle School also used the baseball field for practice and its home games.
Today, community softball teams are non-existant after the closing of several industries left adult softball a thing of the past. Also, Martin Middle School uses the more up-to-date facility at Indian Lake.
The non-use of Clark Park fields have left them in need of cosmetic repairs.
The group suggested repairing the fields and adding new lights. Other suggestions for the park included an area for skateboarding, a walking trail, disc golf, movies in the park and concerts in the park.
Gay applauded all the suggestions, but she raved a little about the idea of the concert.
“If we can get electricity in the park this summer, you might see a little concert in the park, so keep your ears opened,” she said. “My background specialty is special events. I know how to throw a party in the park. All we need is a little electricity and we are ready to go.”
The group brainstorming session also brought about some “interesting ideas,” including video game tournaments, barbecue and chili cook offs, a Wi-Fi connection at the center and fitness concepts.
Town council member Taro Knight applauded all the ideas. However, he reminded the group that he was part of another group that had the same discussion before he became a councilman. He gave Gay a strong suggestion to follow up on the ideas.
“Four years ago, before I decided to run for council, we had this same meeting and yet we are back here again,” Knight told Gay. “We have to follow up and be held accountable in this area. People in this area should hold me accountable and, in return, the council should hold (town manager) Alan (Thortnon) and you accountable. We have to do some things differently. We started and we have to see it through. We can’t just feel good about tonight and walk away and do the same thing. I’m feeling good about this meeting, but let’s follow up on it.”
Gay said she will schedule a follow-up meeting in the spring.
“This is just the beginning,” she said. We’re going to continue to push this forward and set goals as we begin working on this budget season.”