Thanks to Karen Y. Johnson, School Board appointee to the Parks Board, for filling me in on the real ramifications of budget cuts to Metro Parks currently proposed by embattled Director Roy Wilson. The neighborhoods around Morgan Park in the North End will be most immediately affected in that the community center could close one more day per week if the Parks Board approves the $463,000 in cuts. Currently the MPCC is open Monday through Friday, having had its Saturday hours slashed several years ago.
In the past, other centers, like Looby in MetroCenter stayed open longer hours and weekends to try and provide for North End kids who lost programming at Morgan Park. But Looby had already cut back its hours before the latest news of shortfalls. The only other option for North End kids has been to go to the regional community center at Hadley Park near TSU, which was open on Saturdays and provided extended programming. However, in the latest proposal (which Mr. Wilson has pitched to try and make up for overages on public golf courses), Hadley Park will be closing on Saturday, reducing its open hours, and eliminating its program coordinator. The Hadley Park facilities manager would assume all supervision and non-supervisory staff would provide programming.
Also, the Watkins Park center on 17th Avenue near Marathon Village and Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School is scheduled to be closed completely. Other neighborhood centers outside of north-by-northwest Nashville scheduled for closure are: Cleveland, Kirkpatrick, McCabe, and West.
According to Ms. Johnson, nature center staff will be reduced, but they will revolve between Beaman, Bells Bend, and Shelby Bottoms alternate days and weeks. Details on specific hours are not yet available.
These plans look dismal to me as a patron of Nashville parks and as a parent. In the case of Morgan Park, we are probably losing one more day of operation at the community center as well as losing the option of alternative programming and services at the Hadley Park regional center, which must be getting crowded with all of the other community center cutbacks. I don't see how community centers can stay open 4 days during the work week with minimal programming and be effective. It feels like the dark ages with no renaissance in sight in parks and recreation.