Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Secession of Parks and Recreation: A Cautionary Tale

Many years ago, before I came to live in this enchanting little town, the Parks and Recreation service was a City department, financed and supervised by the municipality. For some reason, at some point, a Parks and Recreation District was formed, and that entity eventually came to be responsible for the City cemetery, golf course, and a community recreation center that is the base of their operations. They have a separate shop, separate equipment, and separate payroll system from the City’s, despite the fact that the City provides them with salary reimbursement for all employees and an operating budget, funded by the taxpayers, which covers the year-round maintenance costs of Evanston’s many parks, the recreation center, the golf course, and the cemetery.

I could complain about the swampy state of the parks during the summer months, when the Parks and Rec. staff so overzealously waters the grass without regard to citizen use, turf management, or reasonable, conservatory watering methods, including a sensible watering schedule. Sometimes they water all day, even during the hottest part of the day when up to 50% of water applied to the grassy surfaces evaporates.

But I’m not here to complain about that. I’m here to whine about the women’s locker room.

The recreation center is in no way a non-profit facility. In fact, they charge fees equal to or exceeding those of any other fitness club to which I have belonged, including Powerhouse Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and 24-Hour Fitness.

The women’s locker room features a sagging ceiling with peeling paint, bent and graffiti-spattered lockers, cheap PVC pipe curtain rods that replaced a previous system that has never been removed and makes for a repugnant eyesore, its empty hooks rusting in the steam. The vinyl shower curtains themselves do not cover the entire opening of each stall, and many are torn and stained. One even features a large square hole, as if someone appropriated it to upholster something at home, or maybe that was the cheapest, easiest way to remove some graffiti.

The wooden benches in most stalls have come unbolted from the wall, hanging dejectedly and sending any items unwittingly placed there sliding to the floor. The wood itself is warped and welted and green with mildew. The drains are clogged with hair and bath products, and the scratched and dented walls of the stalls sport oily globs of soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner that often linger for weeks before the janitorial staff comes around (yes, they do have a janitorial staff, and no, they don't have to squeegee the gigantic mirror on the wall by the hot tub- the teen lifeguards do that for them). The grout between the tiles is stained with mildew and the mirrors are usually streaked, and I can't begin to describe the sauna.

I suppose this says a lot about the way some of the female patrons treat the facility, but I think the condition of the facility has far more to do with how much of the revenue from the fees collected from those patrons goes to support the municipal golf course. Taxpayer money from the City coffers paid for the private clubhouse the golf club now leases from the City. This seems to have set the precedent for a series of financial abuses and imbalances that no City official has been willing- or able- to end. In fact, Parks and Recreation seems to answer to no higher authority at all.

If I didn’t think there would be repercussions, I’d send this to the editor of the local wastepaper, the Herald (which reportedly does not publish uncredited letters). But as a City employee, I’m sure I’d catch hell. So you get to hear it, and I get to go to the recreation center twice a year to remind myself why I quit going in the first place. Now, if you'll please excuse me while I go sanitize every square inch of myself...

2 Comments:

Anonymous christmas angel said...

Yes, and I can vouch for that too! You'll remember a time that you and I went there together and after swimming in that near toxic (because of the amount of chlorine they have to use) pool, we just HAD to shower. We chose two stalls next to each other at the end and while scrubbing away, trying to remove all that chlorine from skin and hair in that nasty environment, I saw something. I looked closely, which I soon came to regret, and there was the unspeakable, lying right near the drain on the floor. I was so nastified that I think I've only been back once since! With the way they clean the place I imagine it had been there/would be there a good long time. Gross! It's a shame really because we like to swim so, and we don't even have a decent place to do it. I think that should be on the list of things to do once we're millionaires. ;P Build this town a decent, clean pool. It would be a private pool and to get in...you would have to pass a background check! Question #1 - when was the last time you bathed? Question #2 - Have you ever peed in a pool? LOL...just kiddin'!

January 17, 2007 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger A said...

OMG. I remember the unspeakable. Fuel for the fire!

January 17, 2007 at 12:47 PM  

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