Is it time for a county-wide recreation program?

December 4, 2023

Is it time for a county-wide recreation program?

Editorial by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Tonight the Ludington City Council is expected to renew an inter-local agreement for recreation programs and services. This agreement, between Ludington, Pere Marquette Township and Hamlin Township, is for recreation, which is operated by Ludington Area School District (which is allowable in the agreement). While the recreation program does have adult programs, the majority are targeted toward youth.

Ludington, Pere Marquette and Hamlin fund the program by each contributing $10,000 annually.

Over in Scottville, there’s also a youth recreation program. That program is operated by Mason County Central Schools. Unfortunately, the Scottville area program does not have the same financial support of the municipalities that it services. There is some contribution in the way of field usage and maintenance from the City of Scottville, Riverton Township, Village of Fountain and Mason County Eastern Schools.

While there are two separate recreation programs in the county, several of the youth sports interact. For example, my daughters (grades 3 and 5) participate in the basketball program operated by MCC. The third and fourth grade girls basketball program competes exclusively at Hawley Gymnasium at Ludington High School. Scottville has three teams and Ludington has five teams. The fifth grade program travels between MCC, Ludington, Hart and Shelby.

The competitions are coordinated between the representatives from those respective programs which work together on scheduling and facilities. It’s actually very impressive to see the great cooperation between the Scottville and Ludington programs and the Oceana programs.

Before I go any further, I want to add that none of these programs would be successful without all the dedicated volunteers.

The Ludington program offers t-ball, boys’ baseball, girls’ softball, co-ed slow pitch softball, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, tennis leagues and camps, beach volleyball, cheerleading, art camp and cooking classes.

Those who do not live in Ludington, Hamlin and Pere Marquette can participate for a fee, which is fair.

The Scottville program, as stated above, is more targeted toward youth. It includes t-ball, boys’ baseball, girls’ softball, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, and girls’ volleyball.

The local youth soccer program, based in Ludington, is a separate self-supported organization.

Isn’t it time that we, as a county, re-evaluate recreation and come up with a program that services the entire county?

First and foremost, a countywide program would have to be geographically equitable. The overseeing committee would need to include representatives from all regions of the county and programs would need to take place throughout the county. This would need to be stated in the bylaws of any formal organization. There are many great quality recreational facilities/fields throughout the entire county.

While a countywide program could include adult recreation as well, I believe a strong emphasis needs to be placed on youth recreation. The children of this county, whether they live in Ludington or Free Soil, need to be engaged in recreational activity. Access to recreation not only enhances the quality of life but also teaches children life lessons such as teamwork, winning and losing, strategy and respect.

A countywide program would require a commitment from each of the municipalities in this county and financial contribution could be established based on population. The governing body could be overseen by a district similar to the Mason County District Library.

Another option, which in my opinion is more viable, would be the establishment of an authority, similar to the Mason County Rural Fire Authority or the Ludington Mass Transit Authority and fund the program through a millage. After-all, whether the funds come from a municipality’s general fund or through a millage, they are still tax dollars.

Either of those two options could also fund adult recreation programs as well.

Regardless, it’s an investment that our children — and our population. Our county’s population needs to understand that it needs to invest in our children and send them a message that we care about their well being and this is a place where they could raise their children someday.

If this is something you would like to see happen, I would encourage you to reach out to your local officials or your county commissioner.

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