Recreation as a city priority

Friday, April 20, 2012
News Editor Murray Bishoff

I spent close to a couple hours at Monett's Windmill Ridge Golf Course on Thursday taking pictures on students playing during the Big 8 Tournament. It's easy to forget what a lovely space the course represents. On a nice day, being outdoors in the middle of nature is like a piece of heaven.

I explained to a photographer from the Monett High School yearbook how the city built the second nine holes 10 years ago. Claiming the land for recreational use was a good choice. Yes, it may have cost $1 million, but the investment provided a very nice asset.

Today, we could not imagine what it would be like to only have a nine-hole golf course in Monett again.

We need to find a good way to let non-golfers get a feel for how extraordinary a public space the golf course has become. Walkers can at least experience the space at certain hours. At other times, flying golf balls can be a real hazard.

Not every city can afford such an investment. Monett's prosperity continues to make it possible.

Even so, the city has limits. We have seen the gradual retreat from the city-run recreation department, though the arrival of the YMCA fills the void. Many private service organizations came into existence in Monett simply because there was a void.

At a meeting earlier this week, Mayor Jim Orr shed light on other limits the city may have about recreation. The mayor said the city has been very happy about the arrangement with the YMCA over running the municipal swimming pool. But the time is coming when a decision about the swimming pool will have to be made.

Like everything else, swimming pools wear out. They're expensive to replace. Will Monettans get behind a big expensive replacement project?

Orr was clearly looking for feedback. No decision has to be made in the near future. The pool is hardly a money-maker, and in penny-pinching times, a pool becomes a questionable luxury. But is it a prudent use of city funds? Should Monett have a small sales tax, like Pierce City, to cover park expenses, taking the burden off the general fund?

No proposals are being floated yet, but public sentiment shapes priorities.

The Monett city government has made a big investment in recreation over the years, at the same time private recreation opportunities have not thrived here. City council members want to avoid confrontations like those generated by the golf course in the past. Hearing what to support would be appreciated.