Lake County is a community that cares about each and every individual within it. It’s what makes us special and is ultimately why I decided to move here. Since we don’t have as many resources as several of our more affluent neighbors, we must work together to accountably and sustainably solve our problems. We are invested together and that makes the biggest difference.
This past week, the Lake County Recreation Department held its first open house to gain community feedback regarding its up-and-coming master plan. While over 100 individuals attended, it was a sorry representation of our community as a whole (that is despite the survey stating that 34 percent of Lake County’s population identified as Hispanic, not a single member of our Latinx community attended the event).
This study is being conducted by SE Group, a third-party consulting group founded in New England, and is projected to last nearly a year and cost over $100,000. While I agree the future of Lake County recreation desperately needs a steering document, it is unfortunate that it was not prioritized earlier. My biggest fear now that it is being prioritized is that the results will not truly showcase our entire community’s recreational needs.
In June, when the master plan RFP was first opened, I strongly urged that the study stay local. As previously mentioned, we are experts at working together to solve our problems. One need not look further than Lake County Build a Generation — whose Community Connector model has surveyed and found creative solutions to some of our community’s biggest issues, from housing to food insecurity — to understand how thoughtful, efficient and equitable we are in addressing community-wide issues.
By keeping this project local, not only could we have kept funds local, but we could have also worked together — yet again — to tackle a community-wide question in a way that ensures every voice is heard.
As we approach the anniversary of our aquatic center’s closure, I am saddened that this anniversary will likely be one we will mourn for many years to come. Even if the master plan does point toward indoor recreation as a community priority, this survey will be followed by a decade’s worth of other surveys, feasibility plans, fundraising, ballot measures and construction.
I am saddened that Lake County’s indoor recreation is in crisis and that rather than focusing on salvaging and utilizing what we already have, we are prioritizing the insights of a third-party entity whose investment in our community ends with a paycheck. I am most saddened, however, that the solution to these concerns is a drawn-out survey that is not considering the entire community as a whole. If this is to be the document that steers the future of recreation, I strongly urge the Lake County Recreation Department to do its best in providing equitable opportunities to ensure that every voice in Lake County is heard.