The City of Woodlake’s parks and recreation department is thriving in year one

By Stephanie Barraza
Special to the Sun-Gazette

WOODLAKE – With hundreds of soccer league sign-ups and a variety of community art classes, Woodlake’s Parks and Recreation Department has seen a great first year, even without a proper director to lead it.

Instead, the department has been run as a team effort between city staff, including Woodlake city administrator Ramon Lara and community development director Jason Waters.

“At least for the first year, we’re going to absorb the duties in-house as we continue to grow our Parks and Recreation department,” said Lara. “Our goal is to go out and recruit someone probably in about a year.

The department kicked off the soccer season with 200 sign-ups from local kids, offering youth leagues in soccer, basketball, baseball and softball. The city announced the opening ceremonies for its inaugural soccer program on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Castle Rock Field.

As far as the day-to-day operations go for the department, Lara says they have hired extra help that works a couple days out of the week to help coordinate the soccer program, including setting up nets, making sure the referees are ready to go and that the games take off on time. But when it comes to the maintenance of the facilities, the city’s Public Works will absorb it.

“Essentially what we’ve done for now is we absorbed the duties from an administrative standpoint,” said Lara. “We want to make sure that from a budget standpoint that we’re able to have a full-time director for the long term. Our goal is to include it in the 2019 – 2020 budget.”

While many of the outdoor sports recreation classes are being held at Castle Rock Field, many classes, however, may need the use of a proper indoor facility.

“Hopefully within the next week, we’ll have the completion of our new community center, so anything that is indoors will be held at the center. Anything that’s outdoor will either be held at our Castle Rock soccer field or at baseball fields,” he said

According to Lara, the long-awaited 12,000 square foot community center in Woodlake is just about completed, but it still needs some finishing touches to make it fully functional.

The ribbon cutting is slated for next Friday, Oct. 19.

The community center will include a full basketball court to run the department’s basketball program, and would also include rooms to host dance and art classes.

As far as long-term goals for the department, Lara says that he hopes to see it self-sustainable, which would include the fees from the sports leagues to help cover the cost of the office.

“We understand that it’s going to take time, but that is a long-term goal,” he said.

Lara says that the community has also played a big part in getting the department off the ground and running.

“We have over 20 local sponsors that have really helped with the process,” he said. “The community involvement from the local businesses has been huge.”

So far, Lara says the department has seen just enough local support to run on its own, at least for its first year.

“We had a great kick off, our kids are looking good, they have nice uniforms, they look sharp our there, parents are happy with the way the league is organized and overall I think it’s been a great success.”

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