Parks commission talks future goals, committees

In their first meeting since narrowly avoiding disbandment, Turlock’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commissioners established goals and new committees for the upcoming year.

The PAR Commission now meets quarterly following a vote by the City Council in January, when Council members were tasked with the decision of whether or not to temporarily shut down the group of community volunteers. Meetings instead were cut to four times a year, rather than monthly. The future of the commission was at risk due to the City’s recent financial woes, which have caused City services to take a hit.

While the PAR Commission ultimately was saved, Wednesday’s meeting served as a planning session to ensure its members get the most out of future projects, ideas and workshops.

“I’m looking at this like an opportunity for us all to hit the ‘reset’ button and to really work together to identify the goals we’re going to work together to achieve in the coming year, because ultimately what I hope to be able to demonstrate to not only the council, but to the community as well, is all of the things you’ve been able to accomplish as a commission,” Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder told the commission.

With the hitting of the reset button came a new commissioner, as Allison Jeffery was seated at the dais as the group’s newest member. Jeffery settled into her role quickly, joining the new Adopt-A-Park Ad Hoc Committee that was formed during the meeting — one of three action items that developed new undertakings for the commission.

In addition to the Adopt-A-Park Ad Hoc Committee, which will see Jeffery and commissioner John Snoke advocate for the program throughout the community, the commission on Wednesday also formed a Pedretti Advertising Ad Hoc Committee comprised of commissioner Robert Holly and added the City Hall Art Gallery to the already-established Public Art Ad Hoc Committee, which includes commissioners Keristofer Seryani and Randy Icelow.

“We wanted to add the gallery to (the Ad Hoc Committee) because it’s a great opportunity to showcase local art and it’s right out here in the hallway,” Parks, Recreation and Facilities manager Eric Schulze said, adding that while art shows have been held at the space in the past, he’d like to see more art displayed at City Hall. “We want to really include that in along with the work that’s already being done by the Ad Hoc Committee.”

The commission also decided to disband its Urban Garden and National Fitness Campaign Ad Hoc Committees.

“Those committees are things that I put in a long time ago because we weren’t doing anything and I was trying to come up with something,” commission chair Brent Bohlender said. “With there being no money, it sort of curtailed the whole thing from getting off the ground no matter what we did.”

Icelow asked Van Guilder how future ideas from both the commission and the community could gain traction.

“Members of the community are coming to me with ideas…I feel like I have a duty to help the people in the community who want to get together and connect them, so what’s the right protocol for that?” he asked.

Van Guilder said any ideas to improve the City’s parks, arts and recreation services should be brought to staff, who can assist with placing items on the City Council agenda for approval. The commission also discussed utilizing social media to better inform the public of events, as well ass biweekly presentations at City Council meetings.

“You’re the advocates and you can be the champions in terms of what our community needs are,” Van Guilder said.

The next PAR Commission meeting will be held in June.