Woodlake budget bounces parks and recreation expansion for now

Woodlake’s 2022-23 budget pushes back plans for Parks and Recreation expansion until construction labor, material prices drop

WOODLAKE – The budget for the upcoming fiscal year has been approved by the city council and does not include expanding the parks and recreation department.

Woodlake City Council approved and passed the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year at its meeting on June 27. The final budget comes after three months of work beginning with public hearings in March, during which citizens requested an expansion of the parks and recreation department. Unfortunately, those requests were not included in the budget.

In recent years the city has developed sports programs through the parks and recreation department including basketball for both youth and adults, as well as baseball, softball, soccer and wrestling for youth. Among the requests from the public was adding a volleyball program, however, that will not happen this year due to the lack of funding available to hire more staff for the program and issues with gym space.

City manager Ramon Lara said keeping the fees low for participants is a priority of the parks and recreation sports programs. “If we wanted to take on a new staff member, the $55 fee jumps to $100 and then some kids won’t be able to play,” Lara said.

Finding enough space for new programs is also a problem. Right now, both basketball and wrestling use the same gym at the Woodlake Community Center. When wrestling comes in, they have to put down their mats, practice and then roll them back up so basketball can practice. Finding time to set up nets in the same gym for volleyball and then take them down for wrestling and basketball isn’t feasible.

Availability at the Woodlake Community Center is why the city plans to build the Woodlake Town Center. The city has purchased land at Valencia Boulevard and Avenue 344 in order to expand the parks and recreation department, which is overcrowding the community center. Classes from College of the Sequoias, Boys and Girls Club, as well as dance all use the current community center, which also hosts city council meetings.

Once the Woodlake Town Center is constructed, one of the buildings will house a dance studio as well as meeting rooms for some of the groups currently using the community center. The other building will have a small version of the gym currently used by wrestling and basketball programs. This will allow the wrestling program to have their own space in which they don’t have to roll up the mats after every practice. Two other buildings will be constructed to remain empty and open to meet future needs of the community.

Unfortunately, the city has had to put off construction of the Woodlake Town Center this year due to inflation. Costs of labor and materials are too high for the current budget, so plans for construction have been pushed back.

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