June 28, 2015

 

St. Louis, MO June 28, 2015 – President Reed calls for all-hands-on-deck to improve the city’s seven neighborhood recreation centers in an effort to reduce teen violence across the city. Reed and his staff plan to tour each of the centers and meet with program specialists to identify ways to improve access to recreational programs. In 2006 City tax payers approved a property tax increase that financed the construction of two large centers run by the YMCA in O’Fallon and Carondelet Parks. Since then, the existing, smaller centers have seen little investment. Reed estimates the current backlog of capital needs tops $10 million and the demand for programs far outweighs the supply.

“What we’re finding at nearly every center is room for growth,” said Reed. “But to be successful, we’ll have to build stronger relationships with non-profit partners and the community at large around the need for greater recreational opportunities in St. Louis.”

Reed cites the Forest Park Forever model as an example that could be replicated.  His office ensured the centers would benefit from a proposed general obligation bond set to go before voters this August.  If approved, it would authorize $2.65 million for capital improvements. But capital investments are not the only need. Due to staffing shortages, many of the centers are closed or have limited offerings in the evenings and on weekends, times when Reed believes a great opportunity exists to engage young people.

Studies show that out-of-school time programs reduce juvenile delinquency, reduce negative behaviors, expose youth to less violence, improve educational performance and help youth develop self-confidence, optimism and initiative.

“Providing top notch programming for youth and community recreation opportunities that meet the needs of residents –that’s what I’m committed to,” said Reed. “It’s my passion and it’s what our community needs as we struggle with a gun-violence crisis year after year.”

Last week, Reed introduced legislation he believes will make it easier for non-profits to supplement offerings of the Recreation Department. That legislation creates ‘friends of” accounts to allow the city to raise revenues from private individuals to support each center. It establishes an online portal for donors to conveniently contribute.

Reed’s other suggestions for improving recreational offerings include:

  • Increasing coordination between the City’s Health and Recreation Departments;
  • Entering agreements with groups to provide volunteer support to boost program offerings and to expand structured activities for youth and seniors year-round;
  • Allocating additional space for fitness programs for working adults;
  • Establishing Citizen Advisory Councils to involve youth and neighborhood groups in revitalization efforts and program development;
  • Usage of Nextdoor.com, an online social platform for neighborhoods, to better connect residents with the programs offered at neighborhood centers.

  “Here we have an opportunity to work with our friends in non-profits and the private sector to breathe new life into what could become the greatest assets for our neighborhoods over the next decade and beyond,” said Reed. “Let’s start to look at things a little bit differently and not be afraid to ask for help when it’s clear that we, as a city, have some major shortfalls.”

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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