Canton recreation program review closer to reality

A skater talks with her parents through the glass at the Canton Recreation Pavilion during a public skate at the facility in 2017. Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — With a town budget adjustment approved this week and a community forum scheduled, Canton’s municipal recreation program is inching closer to a “reimagined” state.

The “reimagining” initiative began in the fall and has so far culminated in big picture recommendations through a community-led evaluation of recreation staffing, facilities, programming, partnerships and taxpayer return on investment.

The joint municipal recreation committee — comprised of town Councilors Timothy J. Danehy and Martha Foley Smith and village Trustees Carol S. Pynchon and Elizabeth R. Larrabee — convened an advisory group of more than 20 community members who met virtually over the past few months.

Mr. Danehy said the process has generated “far more good ideas than could be distilled and whittled down within the scope of what this group was tasked to do.” The need to form a permanent recreation steering committee, which would meet regularly with the municipal committee and carry member terms, is a key takeaway, he said.

Town councilors on Thursday night approved transferring an existing $32,201 from a special items contingency fund into the parks and recreation contractual fund of the 2021 town budget. During fall budgeting for this year, the town earmarked $115,900 for recreation costs — separated into $100,000 for contractual expenses and $15,900 for the Recreation Pavilion floor — and kept $32,201 in a contingency fund as program evaluations began.

The town’s fiscal year aligns with the calendar year, but the village operates from June to May. As the village’s 2021-22 budget planning season approaches and the recreation advisory group’s recommendations are further reviewed, Mr. Danehy said, the town’s total parks and recreation budget should again reflect its full expense potential.

“In order to move forward with recreation I think we need to get back in line with the village,” he said. “And this restores us to the exact funding level we had in the 2020 budget.”

Pavilion operations have been “running smoothly” in the last few weeks, with partner organizations following municipal pandemic protocols and heeding ice rink rules.

“Knock on wood that will be the case for the rest of the season,” Mr. Danehy said, adding that the recreation department is looking at April for clearing ice for the winter.

The advisory group’s draft recommendations are viewable on the parks and recreation page of the municipal website. Community members across recreation interests are represented in the advisory group, but broad public feedback is wanted.

A virtual public forum will be hosted at 7 p.m. March 22, over Zoom. The Zoom link will be posted on the municipal website calendar and the parks and recreation page within 24 hours of the meeting. Input can also be submitted through a Google Form posted on the website.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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