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Chesterfield: No More Outdoor Play 

Facing a budget shortfall, parks and recreation department recommends eliminating outdoor activities.

Beginning this July -- a peak month for outside activities -- residents of Chesterfield County may no longer be able to enjoy the kayaking, nature hikes, rock-climbing, summer camps and other outdoor programs offered by the county's parks and recreation department. Facing a 2011 budget shortfall of $1.6 million, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Golden has proposed eliminating all outdoor programs offered by the department.

Golden announced his budget proposal, which he says also includes shedding 20 full-time positions and 13 part-time positions and slicing support for adult athletics programs, senior citizen programs, historical programs and other cuts, at the Feb. 4 meeting of the department's advisory council.

“The outdoor programs is something less than a third of the total reductions,” points out Golden, who stresses that his proposals are just recommendations at this point. But the recent decision by the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors not to increase the real estate tax rate means that the department must simply make do with less, says Ron Maxe, the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. The department anticipates only minor funding cuts for field maintenance for youth sports, such as baseball and soccer, but is proposing to eliminate funding for field maintenance and scheduling for all adult sports, such as softball.

“We understand there's no more money,” Maxe says.

Community rallying against the recommended cuts has taken on an added fervor in the past few weeks, with employees and residents sending email blasts, signing petitions and creating Facebook groups and a resource Web site, savechesterfieldoutdoors.com, to protest the proposed cuts.

Maxe says the advisory commission is encouraging employees and residents to brainstorm alternatives for an open meeting with the community to be held this week.

The advisory commission will present its own recommendations to the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors for consideration alongside the budget proposals. The board will cast a final vote on the budget April 14.

“What we've asked staff to do is say maybe we can't provide all of the outdoor programs, but let's take the top 10 or the top five and at least keep them alive,” Maxe says.

“We are looking for other sources of funds within our budget in order to keep as many of those programs as functional as possible,” says Dan Gecker, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “The Parks and Recs programs hit a large number of citizens, and I think we are very sensitive to that fact.”

The parks and recreation advisory commission will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, in the Eanes-Pittman Public Safety Training Center, 6610 Public Safety Way, Chesterfield County.

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