Friday, October 15, 2004

Welcome a respected organization to our community

Guest opinion by Anita McCann

Anita McCann is a Blaine County resident and a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations

In response to the negative advertising I saw in both local newspapers (Oct. 7) regarding the Wood River Community YMCA, and a guest opinion in the Wood River Journal, which distorted the real facts about the Y, I feel compelled to respond. I find those pieces rife with factual errors and innuendo defamatory to the YMCA effort. It is absolutely ludicrous to me that there are people who cannot understand the benefits and value of having one of the most respected organizations in the country become a part of our community.

I find it a shame that the person or people who placed the advertisement in the Wood River Journal cannot even stand up and identify themselves! This ad implied that sending kids up to Ketchum from the south valley to attend the Y might kill them because of traveling on ?dangerous? Highway 75. Buses can bring kids to the programs after school and on weekends. I have not seen any letters or ads at any time in my history here (30 years) about the kids who travel on buses every day to the middle school and high school from the North Valley who might be killed by the highway travel!

I have heard that right now approximately 30 percent of the kids at Hemingway Elementary commute from the south part of Blaine County because their parents work in the north valley. How great for them to be able to go right to the Y after school and wait there, instead of in an empty house, for their parents to finish work.

Those who placed the advertisement in the Mountain Express identified themselves as the Ketchum Health and Fitness Coalition?maybe they should at least admit who they are, too. I would guess that no one from the Ketchum Health and Fitness Coalition contacted the YMCA to check the facts. Instead, it appears that the coalition, ignoring facts, simply talked to some for-profit fitness club owners or managers for support of the advertisements.

The guest opinion by a local talk show host printed in the Wood River Journal suggested that 4.74 acres of the land be sold by the city to a developer to raise money for the city?s coffer. Is that not what the local option tax does? How many condos and townhouses do we need? He kindly suggested that one acre remaining be put aside for a pool. He did not do his homework very well. It is a known fact that a public pool, on its own, runs in the red. Besides, the main point to remember is that buying that land from local-option-tax money (almost 70 percent from tourists), not property tax, was approved in 1989 by the people of Ketchum. The approval specifically stated that the land would be used for recreational, cultural and parking purposes.

Some of the naysayers now are the same ones who were in office then, to whom we all gave great kudos for their foresight in preserving the land for the benefit of all. Now we have this incredible opportunity, honoring the vision of 1989, to build a Y that would encompass all three of the specific uses that people voted yes to.

It could be years before another great plan, with such a recognized organization, presents such an amazing and encompassing opportunity for this valley. There is no land in Hailey, or Bellevue, that has been put aside for the same purposes.

Before she left office as head of Blaine County Recreation in June, Mary Austin Crofts said Ketchum is the right place for the Y, since Hailey has a good facility now with the conversion of the old high school into a recreation center and meeting place.

The YMCA will offer programming that no private facilities offer in Ketchum. There is no year-round affordable swimming pool in the Wood River Valley. The YMCA will soon offer its ?Y on Wheels? programming as an after-school alternative?again something unique. Something else the Y can offer?nobody is turned away due to inability to pay. I don't think any for-profit facilities offer that.

The YMCA will be a place to gather, providing safe alternatives for children, teens, families and seniors where all feel welcome. The YMCA is doing all the fundraising for the facility. It will operate and sustain this facility without help from the city. The CEO hired has 20 years experience in YMCA business. This is not a fly-by-night operation. Everything has been covered to run this facility in the most professional way possible.

Yes, it has taken years to get to this point. That is because those who volunteered their efforts during the past 10 years have done everything possible to create the finest facility available and to honor the original intent of this land use by the people of Ketchum. Many of the business leaders in Ketchum know that the facility will enhance the local economy overall. Why would we want to turn this down?

What is even more troublesome is the negative effect the advertisements have had by promoting misunderstanding of the mission, vision and values of the YMCA. YMCAs help all, regardless of ability to pay, and have a great deal to provide to communities. Their aim is to bring communities together through programs that are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end. That end is to break down divisions within a community, and offer opportunities that are not offered now.

I would hope that everyone who has questions about the YMCA inform themselves by calling the Y at 727-9622 and learning the facts and history about this project.

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