ADRIAN — Having stopped providing recreational services to Adrian for nearly 2013, the city has been able to maintain and promote recreational services for a year after reviving the recreational program last fall.
With budgets and cash flow evolving positively, the city was able to bring recovery back into its bid towards the end of 2021. She was also financially able to hire a parks and recreation director. Jeremiah Davies filled that role late last year.
As early as 2008, the leisure programs offered by the city were cut to save money. In 2013, due to financial turmoil caused by the Great Recession, Adrian was forced to consolidate its Parks and Recreation division into Parks and Engineering Services. Adrian Public Schools and the Lenawee County YMCA – now the Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA – caught up with the recreational programs during this period.
“It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited to see where we’re going,” Davies said Nov. 7 as he addressed the Adrian City Commission during his pre-session work study session, which was devoted entirely to an update on Parks and Recreation.
Davies was officially hired as Parks and Recreation Director on November 8, 2021.
While the Frank and Shirley Dick family’s Adrian Public Schools and YMCA still handle much of the recreational programming, the city has a seat at the table.
As part of its longstanding partnership with the Adrian Schools, the city has committed $30,000 per year to cover equipment, supplies, site supervisors, trainers and more to support the program in its current state.
“As part of this initiative, we’re giving the school district first rights to our fields: soccer fields, baseball, softball, cross-country, which they use extensively on the trails,” Davies said. “It’s a seamless partnership and something that really happened before me.”
Before becoming Adrian’s Parks and Recreation Director, Davies was Director of Community Recreation and Communications for Adrian Public Schools. Now with the city – and with some reshuffles at the schools – Davies said he works regularly with Adrian School’s athletic director, Chad O’Brien, and the school’s strength development and recreation coordinator, Toby Ernst, to help organize recreational activities in to do the deed.
Adrian Schools are now offering a year-round recreational program open to children from the town of Adrian as well as students attending Adrian Public Schools from Kindergarten through sixth grade. The program offered by the school district includes football, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, track and field, cross-country skiing, lacrosse, volleyball, golf, and soccer.
In a recent update this fall, more than 250 children in the public schools were involved in recreational activities, Davies told the commission.
Programming is also affordable, which is a plus. Participation prices in recreational sports are between 20 and 25 US dollars, depending on the sport. But if students or families living in the city can’t afford those fees, nobody gets turned away, Davies said. An established scholarship program ensures that money flows into the promotion of leisure time.
O’Brien, who is also fairly new to his position at Adrian Public Schools, attended the Nov. 7 meeting virtually and gave the commission a sporting overview of fall attendance numbers. He joined the school district as athletic director on November 22, 2021.
“Jeremiah and I really worked together to make sure things were streamlined and made sense for both of us,” O’Brien said. “And so nothing happens in our free time that we don’t talk about first.”
Participation in sports at the junior high and high school levels has “increased dramatically,” O’Brien said, which he saw as a direct benefit of the recreational program.
“We are beginning to see the benefits as a district that the recreational program has really paid off for us. I think we’re really trying to keep making sure we work together and sort of clean it up. I think now we have people in place that aren’t going anywhere,” O’Brien said.
The school district-community partnership on recreation is a model that’s really growing across the country, Davies said.
“A lot of communities like ours have had to pull back from recovery at some point for whatever reason, and you’re seeing it growing across the country where school districts are starting to partner with the city and say, ‘How can we help each other and give recovery back to our kids ?’” said Davies.
The YMCA partnership may need to be updated
Most of the adult recreational activities offered at Adrian come from the Frank and Shirley Dick family’s YMCA, which also offers recreational activities for youth. The YMCA operates activities and recreational swimming programs at Bohn Pool.
Some of the key programs, Davies said, include softball at Heritage Park, indoor volleyball at the Piotter Center, sand volleyball at Riverside Park in the summer, and pickleball at the Piotter Center in the winter months.
However, there are some recreational programs that are beginning to duplicate between Adrian Public Schools and the YMCA, Davies said.
“There are a number of things that we’re starting to see where APS has things going, but we’re also seeing that with the YMCA having the same things going. There’s no point in duplicating services,” he said. “We want to have a focused program rather than dividing children. We want kids to go to one program and one session.”
The agreement between the city and the YMCA is outdated, Davies said, particularly emphasizing the definition of what “recreational sports” should mean.
Some sports offered by the YMCA offer discounts if people are members of the YMCA. Other programs Davies referred to are much more competitive and require hundreds of dollars in tuition and travel fees.
“Recreational sports are about fun and basics. It’s not about winning. It’s about learning the game and having fun without worrying about the financial cost of getting involved,” said Davies.
The current agreement with the YMCA renews every three years and will automatically remain in effect unless the language of the agreement is updated by mutual consent. Davies said he’s been in talks with the YMCA about making some changes to the recreation agreement with the city, which the organization has openly listened to, he said.
potential for fee structure changes; Summer highlights
One of Adrian’s most heavily used parks for major events is Heritage Park, said Davies, which he described as the city’s “flagship” of his parks.
Currently, the city does not have a fee structure that addresses large event fees, which essentially close the entire park to other users.
All people have to do is pay the $65 rental fee — regardless of the size of the event — to encompass entire fields within the park. Davies said he and Adrian City Manager Greg Elliott have been exploring possible changes to the fee structure when renting parts of the parks, whether through a special rental/events fee, a space rental fee or charging for parking space rentals via quadrants .
This summer in particular, at least 500 youth cyclists hosted a mountain bike event at Heritage Park, which was great for the city, Davies said, but at the same time a drain on the park system, city employees and residents who wanted to use the park. The fee paid by organizers of the cycling event would have been the $65 housing rental fee, but the organization offered the city $500 for its services, which was accepted, Davies said.
“Our fee structure is really just adapted to the accommodations,” he said.
There is no cost to people if they just want to visit the parks or use the playgrounds. Costs only apply if shelters are rented or events are to take up a large part of the park.
“We want people to get out there and use the services,” said Commissioner Mary Roberts. “We want to make sure people know that they can use the (parking) services for free. The difference is whether you exclude other people. Then there should be an indictment.”
Commissioner Allen Heldt said additional investigations into a change in the parking fee schedule were needed.
“We can still allow people to rent the shelters if they want for a small gathering or a birthday party, but when you’re taking up 75 acres of parking space, that’s a whole different discussion and fee schedule,” he said.
Davies concluded his update by looking back at some of the projects at the parks that took place this summer. Included highlights:
- Repaving of paths and sidewalks in Heritage Park.
- Updates and improvements to the wooden structures in Trestle Park.
- Trail cleanup and landscape improvements along the Kiwanis Trail.
- Installation of new pumps to eliminate potential for algae build-up and lighting in Burr Ponds.
- Installation and opening ceremony for the Splash Pad in Parish Park.
For the parks budget forecast for 2023, Davies said the Department of Parks and Recreation wants to address all park play equipment after a certified playground specialist identified issues with each play area earlier this year.
“We have already removed everything that was considered unsafe from the park. Now there are just a couple of things we want to streamline going forward,” said Davies.
Other updates planned for next year include a resurfacing of basketball courts at Dunlap and Parish parks, continued work on Trestle Park infrastructure, more lighting in city parks, and bathroom and security upgrades.