The Orange St playlot is a community gathering space for all ages and species. Courtesy photo
BY JAMES WERNICKE
The Los Alamos County Community Services Department (CSD) has published surveys that close Friday October 13 on underutilized amenities: two tennis courts (Nina Marsh & Canyon Rd), one handball wall (Canyon Rd), and two playlots (Orange St & Loma Linda). From the way these surveys are presented — using biased and subjective verbiage like “underutilized” and “difficult to access” — it appears like CSD has already come to a conclusion before even gathering public opinion. How then has CSD decided these amenities are underutilized?
According to the 2023 NRPA Agency Performance Review, they reason that we have an excess of 11 courts and 14 playgrounds. Presumably, they are using data from Figure 3 in the report, which shows communities of less than 20,000 have 2,014 and 5,860 median residents per playground and tennis court respectively. While this data may support their argument, it seems to be cherry-picked. There are many other data points in the report that may contradict it.
Figure 10 shows communities of less than 20,000 have median 11.3 FTEs. According to the Los Alamos County FY24 Budget, we have 19. Figure 14 shows communities of less than 20,000 have median expenditures of $120 per capita (we spend $325), $7,495 per acre (we spend $400), and $102,135 per FTE (we spend over $250k). Nationally, 55% of expenditures are on personnel and we spend 64%. This data leads me to believe that our community invests more than average on recreation while realizing far more efficient spending per acre. In other words, our cost-benefit on these kind of amenities is really, really good.
Some other national cost figures in that report are 38% of budgets are operating expenses, funding sources are 61% taxes and 22% user fees, revenues are 25.9% of expenditures, 55% is spent on renovation and 31% on new development, and deferred maintenance projects have a median cost of $117,500. 80% of agencies have an expressed DEI commitment. One key omission in this report — and a valid concern of our amenities — is amenity accessibility. These statistics can be helpful in planning our own goals, but as one of the most privileged communities in the nation, we should be leading the nation in community recreation quality, not just comparing ourselves to the average. We should also not use population as the sole comparator. As every Los Alamosian knows, we are not a normal population.
If you care about this issue, please fill out the surveys for the corresponding playgrounds and tennis courts by Friday, October 13. Believe it or not, citizen feedback is one of the most impactful ways to play a role in your community. As a Parks & Recreation board member, your feedback is invaluable for me to advocate for this community and inspires me to keep doing it. I’m sure the other boards and commissions would agree. You get from the community what you put into it.