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February 14, 2013

Ray Center Meeting Monday

Participation topic of discussion

ROCKY MOUNT — In an effort to increase awareness and participation in recreational activities at the M.A. Ray Center and Clark Park, the Town of Tarboro Parks and Recreation Department (TP&RD) has formed a focus group to participate in a brainstorming session at 6 p.m. Monday at the M.A. Ray Center. The public is invited to attend.

The meeting was suggested by members of the Tarboro Town Council during its January  council meeting when Cheryl Gay, TP&RD director, went before the board to discuss the possibility of cutting back the Ray Center’s operational hours due to a lack of participation.

Councilman Taro Knight, who grew up playing at those facilities, adamantly opposed the idea and said he plans to attend the meeting.

This is a good meeting,” he said. “I would like for as many people as possible to come and let us know how we can better utilize the Ray Center.”

Participation at Ray Center and Clark Park has dwindled down to a mere fraction of the amount when Knight attended as a lad. During those days Clark Park’s outside basketball courts were filled from noon to night while the softball fields accommodated recreational games during special days.

With basketball being the most popular sport among boys in that era, there was not too many hours where the Ray Center didn’t have enough players to fill at least three teams.

Knight is pessimistic that either facility would get back to those numbers, but he would like to see them better utilized.

“We have to be realistic. It will never be like it was when I was growing up,” he said. “But we have to find ways to utilize those facilities.”

Knight said he will suggest partnering with other agencies such as the Boys & Girls Club to be able to offer a different choice of activities.

“We need to at least sit down and talk to them to see what they have to offer,” Knight said. “I’m all for the Rocky Mount Boys & Girls Club using it.”

Since talks about the reduction of hours began, Gay said participation at the Ray Center has increased. Most recently approximately 20 kids attended a youth cooking class.

“The numbers are going up but they are not where we would like for them to be,” she said. “We need more. We want more. This meeting will give us ideas from the community as to how we can better serve them.”

Ray Center’s school season operational hours are from noon to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon to 6 p.m. Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed on Sunday. The center’s summer operational hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and closed on Saturday and Sunday.

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