A non-profit whose goal is to strengthen Parks and Recreation programs across the state is throwing its 40th annual conference in Homer. The conference starts Wednesday and ends Saturday this week. It is expected to draw Parks and Recreation professionals from across the state. KBBI’s Quinton Chandler has more.
The Alaska Recreation and Park Association educational sessions are meant to pass best practices on to association members. Homer Parks and Recreation Manager Mike Illg says the opportunity to glean new ideas from conference participants is invaluable.
“There’s very formal and informal ways to say, “hey what’s working in your town. Here’s what we have going on in Homer. ‘What’s going on in Soldotna? How’s it working in Nome?’ It’s a very crucial component to the Parks and Recreation industry for us to get together annually and just check in with each other,’” says Illg.
The majority of the conference will take place at Land’s End Resort on the Homer Spit. But several events will give conference goers a chance to tour other parts of Homer.
“There’s pickle ball at the HERC building and social events. One [is] at Second Star Mansion and Thursday night [at] Alice’s Champagne Palace which again is another opportunity to network with Parks and Rec professionals and you don’t have to buy a ticket for that,” says Illg.
The City of Homer Parks and Recreation Program volunteered to host the conference this year. Matt Steffy with the Homer Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission says the influx of conference goers will be a boon for local businesses.
“And all of those people are staying at hotels, and eating at restaurants and shopping locally,” says Steffy.
Steffy believes the theme for this year’s conference is especially pertinent to Homer in light of the city’s ongoing efforts to improve its recreation infrastructure.
“Right now this is a really unique time in Homer as far as the Park Art Recreation and Culture Needs Assessment and the conversations going on in Parks and Recreation right now. I think it’s fairly relevant that the conference is themed be the difference [and] it’s in Homer this year,” says Steffy.
The City of Homer hired a consulting firm to develop the PARC Needs Assessment and they completed the assessment in the spring. The study was meant to answer three questions. What recreational services do Homer residents and residents from surrounding communities want from the city? In what ways does the city fail to meet those needs? And last, what strategies can the city adopt to meet those needs? Steffy and Illg think the conference will create an environment for Homer residents to discuss these questions among themselves and people from outside their community.
“Folks from outside of Homer are interested in hearing how Homer works, what does work and what doesn’t, just as much as folks in Homer are curious about what’s working in other communities,” says Steffy.
“We’d really like to engage some of our locally leaders to reach out and participate. Recreation is an important component in Homer and we’ve got to find ways to be sure and still provide them here,” says Illg.
The ARPA conference events begin Wednesday and they’ll wrap up on Saturday with final training sessions and a 5K run that is open to the public. On Friday Governor Bill Walker and his wife First Lady Donna Walker will attend the ARPA awards banquet. Illg says he’s pleased to host Walkers. First Lady Donna Walker was once the Parks and Recreation Director for Valdez, in fact she was the city’s first.
“I think it is terrific that they’re able to show support to our organization and the Parks and Recreation industry,” says Illg.
Illg says the banquet is going to be filled to capacity so there are no more tickets available.