Letter To The Editor: Let’s Keep Los Alamos Tops In Recreation As Well As Science

By BETTY ANN GUNTHER
Los Alamos

Now that the Rec Bond is facing organized opposition (link) from people with money, it is more important than ever for those of us who want additional recreation venues in Los Alamos to vote to support the Rec Bond in the upcoming election.

People have wondered why Los Alamos has a declining population and what to do about it, and I suggest that having sufficient recreational facilities is an important way to stop this decline.

Los Alamos citizens have wondered why, as one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, we can’t have a nice facility like Genoveva Chavez Community Center in Santa Fe and The Taos Youth and Family Center. Both offer indoor ice skating, swimming as well as facilities for many other sports and modes of exercise in a pleasing and inviting setting.

When young families and businesses are looking for locations in the area, the availability of recreational areas certainly has an influence on their choices. Los Alamos recreation facilities simply don’t compare with those in surrounding areas.

For many years, Los Alamos spent little on recreational facilities because the gross receipt tax issues put the town on a very small budget. Now that the county receives full gross receipt taxes on LANL purchases, the county has been able to spend more on capital outlay projects. Now it is time to improve recreational options for Los Alamos for the healthy entertainment of its citizens.

We have a wonderful swimming pool in Los Alamos, but it is completely overrun by teams – teams of young children, high school children, teams of adults and of seniors and we even rent space to teams from all over the world who wish to train at high altitude in the US. The water is kept relatively cold — the best temperature for competitive swimming, but small children turn blue when they get into such a cold pool. We have a small warm pool, but it, too, is very much in demand for babies and small children just learning to swim and for older adults with arthritis and for handicapped people, as well.

We have a wonderful facility, but it just isn’t sufficient for this very exercise oriented community. We need a pool where people can relax and exercise without being run over by competitive swimmers. The handful of private pools around are too expensive for many people and are only open three months a year. We need a pool where people of moderate means can get their exercise in an environment designed for non-competitive swimming.

Our ice rink is outdoors and only usable for a small part of the year. An indoor rink would enable skaters to enjoy skating year round. The golf course is a popular form of activity, but needs repairs. I don’t plan to use the bike trails or the splash pad for small children, but there are people in the community who would really use them.

The rise of diabetes and the prevalence of obesity and heart disease tell us that, as a population, we need more exercise. These serious diseases end up costing the federal, state, and local governments money for health care facilities and services, so failing to offer a full menu of opportunities to exercise is false economy. The county is offering us many ways of getting such exercise with this bond election.

There have been accusations that we don’t need these facilities, but the truth is that the county took surveys of local needs and hosted focus groups in which many locals participated, in order to tailor this bond fund to the needs of the community. If there are old unused facilities that need to be closed, I would be in favor of closing them, but that is a separate issue from whether this recreation bond issue is needed.

Through painful experience the county has learned that offering improvements to only one or two exercise facilities is a way to defeat them because only the people who hope to use the facility vote for these individual bond issues and the rest vote them down. It is simply divide and conquer. When many outdoor activity packages are included in one bond election, many factions will vote in favor of the issue because there is something in it for everyone.

Robert Gibson says he opposes the Rec Bond because, among other reasons, “Most recent county facilities have been ‘gold-plated’ – unnecessarily large, inefficient and overpriced. We have no basis to think these would be any different.” (link) I have visited the new county facilities and find them to be adequate for the county’s needs and have not yet found anything “gold plated” in any of the buildings. Mr. Gibson offers no evidence of projects he considers unnecessarily large, inefficient and overpriced. Without meaningful examples, I have to consider that accusation nothing but a cheap shot.

The biggest argument against these facilities is that some people do not want to pay the taxes to build them. Yet this faction is willing to invest serious money in defeating the bond election. I suggest that those who paid for all this advertising against the bond election could have saved their money to pay for whatever small raises in property taxes might come their way, rather than advertising to defeat this badly needed bond issue.

A town is only as good as the investments its citizens have made in it. There are nearby counties with lower property tax rates and fewer recreational facilities where people who hate to pay taxes can live. One must weigh whether one likes a town with decent recreational facilities or one with lower taxes. For me there is no real choice. I prefer to live in a town where there are many interesting and modern options for exercise for all ages. I urge you to vote “Yes” for more recreational options for Los Alamos. Let’s keep Los Alamos tops in recreation as well as in science.

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