Catherine Wynn

I tend to stay away from somewhat controversial subjects when my turn comes around for writing an opinion column. I generally talk about kids, memories, events, etc. I am in my mid-30s (gulp!) so that is the season of life I am in, along with most of my friends.

However, I feel there are several burning questions surrounding the lack of a replacement parks and recreation director after the departure of Tye Lydon in early May.

Our calendars currently say September. Parks and rec departments typically do not have a slow time, with city league teams playing in all four seasons. City league flag football season is normally held in the fall.

In June of this year it was announced that the city acquired the old fairgrounds for a soccer complex. The new site is already served by city utilities, stated an article previously printed in The Salem News. Salem City Administrator Ray Walden said at that time, “this will save that money and allow us to finish that field sooner than if we had we had to wait on the property south of town.”

Park Board President Stan Podorski called the purchase a smart move.

“It’s a good piece of property,” he said. “It will save the city a lot of money over a longer period of time with the accessibility of the electric and water.”

I commend and agree with the decision to have the fields in town. But I have to ask myself what’s next?

We are into our fourth month without a director. One season is already being lost, according to an online post by the city Aug. 30.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but the 2019 Youth Flag Football Season is cancelled. With current staffing we made it through the summer activities but simply cannot make Flag Football season happen. After a new Parks and Recreation Director is on board, they will be part of the decision to reschedule the season some other time,” according to the Parks & Recreation Department Facebook post.

Over the summer, there was an interim director, as well as several others who assisted in keeping the t-ball/softball programs going, as well as the pool. I commend those people for a job well done.

I assume there were several applicants who have applied for the position. That’s great! A huge pool of applicants should be a dream. I am sure some weren’t qualified, but I am certain some were overly qualified.

Walden said in an email when asked about the position last week, “We’re working on scheduling interviews with finalists for the director position, which we hope to conduct in the next couple of weeks.”

I think the question I have heard most is, what’s the hold up? I get asked this quite often in regard to the position, especially in recent weeks, as more people expected an announcement about the upcoming flag football season.

Are we biding time until spring or summer when the pool starts again? How many other seasons will be lost?

I can’t help but think it is a disservice to the youth of our community who look forward to participating in the sports seasons each year.

A three-eighths cent parks and rec sales tax were passed in April 2015 and has been used for several much-needed and much-appreciated improvements in our park system over the past few years, under an enthusiastic board and leadership.

I don’t want to see the momentum wane as the director’s seat remains empty.

As I sat at the opening home football game Friday night and enjoyed the parade that had fantastic participation and attendance, I couldn’t help but think about the loss of the flag football season for the younger kids.

Kids learn the fundamentals of team sports, sportsmanship, leadership and other invaluable lessons as they participate in youth sports.

As I witnessed the newly-relocated spirit section where the student body, comprised of the Marching Blue, students, and cheerleaders all came together to cheer on the Tigers, I was amazed. It felt like a new beginning in Salem sports. The atmosphere was electric, and others felt the same way.

I believe we are turning a page in the way our athletic programs present themselves. After the Tigers’ win, the speeches were not about “I” or “me.” It was about teamwork and building each other up in rough times.

So, to some, the loss of a flag football season may just be that, one season. But to kids who look forward to one day wearing a Tiger uniform, or cheering on the Tigers in their own way, it is a loss that could have been prevented.