Group strives to promote local recreation

Heidi Zemach for SCN -

Recreation bestThe Seward Recreation Committee’s first meeting of the year 2014, which took place Wednesday Jan 8th over lunch at Apollo’s Restaurant, was a productive one. It was attended by 11 people, including a couple of community members. Most committee members offered enthusiastic suggestions for the future winter activities and events that it could become involved in helping to promote.

It was apparent that about one year in, this ad-hoc advisory group, brought about by former city mayor David Seaward and appointed by the Seward City Council is still working out some details of its mission and vision, and is beginning to limit its scope of action to what is possible, rather than taking on major new capital construction projects such as building a new ice skating rink or swimming pool.

The mission statement they have agreed on to date is “… to conceive, compile and advance recreation opportunities in the Seward area.”

For now, the committee has decided to to focus immediate efforts on supporting and enhancing recreational opportunities that exist. The idea of building a new ice skating rink was pared down to promoting ice-hockey opportunities in existing areas, such as on the local ball field, for example.  Ristine Casagranda, the city council liaison suggested Wednesday that the group promote general maintenance improvements for the high school swimming pool and changing areas. She mentioned her own dream of creating new, improved swimming pool facilities for Seward, including a pool that uses saltwater rather than chlorine, but for now she would like to see smaller positive changes accomplished.

The committee will continue compiling a list of the recreational opportunities and events that exist, and help to make that data available through a calendar, spreadsheet or a public website. Most felt that most people or visitors would benefit from having a central location to go for timely information on things to do in Seward. Currently, that information is scattered throughout a variety of different online and published locations.



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Casagranda and Jody Tuck, the Vice Chair and ADA Advocate, took on the project, but have discovered that its scope is too great a commitment for them to do on their own. They also learned that their efforts overlapped with some existing local websites, including the sewardevents.com website currently linked to the Seward Chamber of Commerce website. They said that the calendar website utilizes good software, and that it could be improved upon, which the chamber has already promised to do. They said that the committee would be willing to help in that endeavor.

Mica Van Buskirk, who heads the Ice Hockey and Ice Rink Action Team, discussed the benefits of getting the word out to the public on current local ice skating opportunities, such as the conditions of ice on the lakes at Two Lakes Park. With Seward’s varied weather, these, and other local lakes are sometimes frozen enough to use for skiing or skating, and sometimes not. The committee wondered whether some of the regular dog walkers or hikers who frequent the area in winter would be willing to help. Conditions at First Lake were “awesome” before, and after Christmas, said Seward Parks and Recreation Director Karin Sturdy.

Joe Allen, speaking for the Iditarod Mile Zero and Festivities Action Team, led a discussion on how the group could help support, enhance, and perhaps expand the Mayor’s Race February 15th. The annual dog-sled race event is held by the Seavey family on their property off Exit Glacier Road. It’s a timed dog sledding event in which a single person, sponsored by a local business, mushes along a short trail behind one of the Seaveys three-dog teams. There’s usually a bonfire and hotdogs and hot cocoa to keep folks warm, and it’s a great way to see these Iditarod-champions, both human and canine, at work.

“That was the highlight of my winter last year,” Allen said. But many people still don’t know what or when it is, and it could use greater business participation, he said. Allen suggested it could be expanded by creating related outdoor activities in the area. Dan Seavey is busy on a book tour, and would welcome some help, he said.  Allen said that the event should encourage participation by the disabled community. He suggested cross-country skiing or snow machine-ride events prior to the afternoon sled-dog races, Snow-Cat activities on nearby Exit Glacier road, or even competitive ski races to and from Exit Glacier. Sturdy suggested snow-shoe or duct-tape races. All seemed to agree with Van Buskirk’s concern about potential liability for the group, should someone get hurt, however, and hoped to take care that the group avoid taking on any liability by not actually sponsoring the event. Allen will solicit opinions from interested parties.

The committee accepted the resignation of one of its members who had informed them that she did not have the time to continue. But they hoped to encourage another member to stay involved, even though their current noon-time meeting schedule does not enable him to participate fully. Noon meetings seem to be the best time for current committee members to attend, they said. Before they solicit new members to the board, they hope to establish the meeting time more clearly, so that volunteers know whether they can attend meetings or not.

The next meeting is at noon February 15th, at Christo’s Palace.

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