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Beacon Senior News

Building a better community: How will a community center impact Grand Junction seniors?

Oct 07, 2018 09:49PM ● By Melanie Wiseman

Community center supporters celebrate after present City Council members unanimously voted "yes" to refer a measure to the April ballot.

It’s difficult to explain why Grand Junction still doesn’t have a community center. Fruita has one; so do Montrose, Moab and Glenwood Springs. Delta’s Bill Heddles Recreation Center is celebrating 25 years and expanding, and more than 40 percent of annual pass holders at the Montrose Community Recreation Center are 55 and older.

Grand Junction residents, especially seniors, are missing out.

In November 2001, Grand Junction voters rejected a measure to build a recreation center. Discussion spurred again in 2014 with the Matchett Park master plan to help prioritize the community’s vision and goals for the future of the 200-acre park near 28-1/4 Road and Patterson.

Extensive conversations with Grand Junction residents and the business community, including gym owners, show there is enough capacity and need for a community center. Members of the Grand Junction Community Center Campaign (GJCCC) have worked cooperatively with City Council and the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department to put the issue before voters once again.

Their efforts paid off, when at their September 19 meeting, City Council unanimously approved a resolution to place the measure on the April 2019 ballot.

The community says

According to a grant-funded feasibility study that polled a realistic sample of adult and senior populations, 88 percent of the community thinks it’s important to develop a community center in the Grand Junction area. It also said 85 percent of registered voters support a sales tax increase to fund the community center.

“That’s an amazing amount of support,” said Marty McDaneld, vice chair of GJCCC, formerly PLACE (People for Local Activities and Community Enrichment).

Andreya Krieves, left, and Marty McDaneld, right, lead the Grand Junction Community Center Campaign (GJCC) which has been instrumental in advocating for a community center in Grand Junction.

McDaneld, 68, and GJCCC chair Andreya Krieves, lead this nine-member committee and volunteer group that has been instrumental in advocating for a community center and getting community members thinking about the economic benefits as well as what it would do to boost residents’ quality of life.

The facility that community members are calling for would be coined a “community” center because it will include flexible meeting/gathering spaces with movable walls for seniors, youth and teens, as well as aquatics and fitness space. A variety of interest groups, such as a quilters’ workshop, have already contacted GJCCC in support of meeting space.

“Everyone will have their space, but the intergenerational piece is something we’re missing out on now,” said McDaneld. “At a community center, multiple generations have the opportunity to connect and be in tune with each other and cross-share their interests.”

Depending on programming, it’s possible that someday seniors will teach teens about fly-fishing and teens will help seniors with challenging technology issues within the walls of a new community center.

What's in it for seniors?

GJCCC discovered that seniors were the critical force in the Fruita Community Center (FCC) vote, and committee members have spent a tremendous amount of time learning from Fruita, Delta and Montrose community center staff and participants with a focus on the needs and wants of seniors.

A fairly recent transplant from Louisville, Colorado, McDaneld knows what a difference a community center can make.

“I grew up in an non-active family, and that didn’t change until my late 30s when I lived where there was a community center,” she said. “I just started low key…by walking on the indoor track, then eventually started using equipment, going to classes and taking yoga.”

McDaneld said a community center is a “community magnet”—a resource that offers something for everyone and is a great way to connect with friends.

“A walking track sounds so simple, but it’s an amazing resource for seniors. A warm exercise pool is one of our top amenities so seniors will be comfortable,” said McDaneld. “Seniors miss the camaraderie. The social piece of a community center keeps you coming for the exercise. They’re not two separate issues.”

Peripheral benefits for both users and non-users include increased property values, year-round access to healthy activities, business recruitment and retention and building social capital.

And what senior hasn’t found it challenging to find a new doctor? GJCCC members believe Grand Junction needs to appeal to young professionals who are looking for assets, such as a community center, for their families.

Like many Grand Junction families, Krieves frequently drives to the FCC to spend time with her young boys.

“When we’re visiting family or traveling, we look for community centers because they’re a place we can all go together,” she said. “When my parents visit, they take the kids to Fruita. I think the opening of the Fruita Rec Center has made a huge difference in the current Grand Junction interest. Now people get what it looks like if they didn’t before and they’re saying ‘Why isn’t this in my town?’”

The nitty gritty

The feasibility study also revealed that Matchett Park was the top choice for the new community center based on site size, link to outdoor amenities, proximity to residential areas and public transportation, among others. The City acquired the park in 1996. Although this would be a City project, county residents and visitors would be welcome to join.

“From our conversations with the community, we’ve got the momentum to do it right,” said Krieves. “Our community, our families, and seniors specifically, deserve a place to be with others—a safe, comfortable place to be proud of, where you belong.”

While cost, amenities and other project details are not set in stone, the measure on the April ballot will include a Grand Junction sales tax increase of between 0.3 and 0.75 percent.

Show your support

Volunteers and donations are needed now for the Grand Junction Community Center Campaign to keep residents informed. Make checks payable to: GJCCC, PO Box 2693, Grand Junction, CO 81502, or visit www.gjcommunitycenter.org.

Community center proposal

Matchett Park to be the site of the main facility, with space for aquatics, a gymnasium and walking track, community and gathering areas, a fitness area, family change rooms and child watch services.

There’s also potential for park development to possibly include seven multi-use fields; two playgrounds; a pond; skate park; and pickleball, tennis and basketball courts.

Orchard Mesa Community Center Pool can become a satellite facility with improvements, and can house aquatics, a gymnasium and community areas.

To view the feasibility study results, visit www.gjcity.org/residents/parks-recreation/community-center.