Supporters switch focus
by Anna Oakes
An informal survey of about 80 people during the summer found split support for continuing to study the YMCA option following two analyses indicating a YMCA would not be viable here. But 84 percent of those surveyed by nonprofit High Country Recreation said they would support a county recreation center if a YMCA is no longer an option.
"I think we now need to shift toward coming together as a community to figure out a way to make a public recreation center happen," said Scott St. Clair, a High Country Recreation board member.
The YMCA initiative began with an informational meeting in October 2012, and the CEO of the Catawba Valley YMCA visited with interested citizens last fall and in January.
In February, a site analysis did not positively conclude the viability of a "Y" membership model for Watauga County. In April, a second site analysis was conducted, expanding the penetration to communities not included in the first analysis. This analysis also did not positively conclude the viability of a "Y" membership model for Watauga County.
St. Clair said High Country Recreation will work to organize supporters from various sectors, including business, medical, nonprofit and government, to collectively affirm the need for a recreation center and develop a plan to fund it.
"High Country Recreation is planning on pursuing community support from a wide group of partners," he said.
The desire for a new pool and recreation center has been outlined in the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Systemwide Plan 2010-2019, the 2006 Comprehensive Plan Update for the town of Boone and the Watauga County Recreation Plan from 1999.
In 2010, Watauga County voters soundly defeated a referendum that would have authorized a quarter-cent local sales tax increase.
The tax increase would have generated an estimated $1.9 million in additional revenue that could have been used to fund a recreation and community center.
Watauga County Commissioner Perry Yates said the county must first address areas of waste before it can entertain ideas for a new recreation facility.
Yates noted that the county's existing swimming pool facility costs the county approximately $300,000 a year to maintain and is too small to host a high school swim meet.
Yates proposed that the county lease swimming pools at Appalachian State University or the Broyhill Wellness Center for the high school swim team.
"I don't think we can continue throwing money toward the old building that was built years ago," he said. "I think we have to work together as a community to look at an option to quit throwing away this money (and) putting it toward something nice and more attractive for citizens to use.
"I think we've got to find a happy medium," he added.
"You have to look at eliminating waste before you increase the sales tax," Yates said.
For more information about the recreation center effort, visit http://www.highcountryrecreation.org.