Roving Reporter | "YMCA Developments Continue to Draw a Crowd" | Article and Photos by Jeanette Larson

Eric Heller (l) and Warren Hassinger (r)
A group from Pirates Landing spoke up during the Citizens to be heard portion of the agenda at the August 2, 2017 meeting of the YMCA Development Committee. Headed by Adelaide Marlatt, the group talked about how they are providing some of the very services that the YMCA would provide if they were here. The programs give middle school and high school students a place to spend time gainfully on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. Marlatt said the program was started when it became obvious five years ago that the City of Rockport would not be operating a recreation center. Several of the programs coaches and participants were in the audience.

Pool users ask for pool-only membership

About a dozen pool users were in attendance, holding water noodles for visibility. They asked a number of questions or asked for clarification on several issues. Donna Craft asked when the YMCA committee would have the long-promised fact sheet ready. Chairman Eric Heller apologized for not having it yet and promised it would be forthcoming. A fact sheet would help stifle rumors and incorrect information about the proposed YMCA.

Volunteers and members of Pirates Landing (foreground)
Heller reported that the pledge campaign is ready to begin. The committee has 120 days to raise $100,000 in donations to fund an executive director for two years. That person will be an employee of the YMCA of the Coastal Bend. His or her salary will be paid from voluntary contributions and will be tasked to raise the remaining funds needed for the building, start providing YMCA programs in Rockport (at churches, classrooms, etc.), and work with the plans to build the building. The pledge form will be available on the City of Rockport's website and in other venues.

A discussion ensued about the number of members who have joined local gyms and whether the YMCA could attract 800+ members. Pat Rios stated that Rockport Health and Fitness has over 1800 members and that the YMCA of the Coastal Bend did the calculations to determine that Aransas County could support the membership required to be fiscally solvent. Councilman Rios, liaison to the YMCA Development Committee, also indicated that there is no expectation that the Y will meet the 800 member goal right out of the gate and that the City of Rockport would provide some financial support in needed. That financial support would still be less than the City currently spends on the pool. Rios expressed concern that the discussion [about the YMCA] has "evolved from a community center with a pool to only [being about] the pool." Marlatt reminded the group that there is potential for substantial growth in the area over the next several years as new plants come into Portland and Corpus Christi. The area will grow some before the YMCA is in full operations.

Adelaide Marlatt
Incoming senior class president for Rockport-Fulton High School, Luke Michael spoke passionately about the need for a place for kids to go. Michael stated that he thinks the YMCA will be a big draw, at least initially, as kids want to try new things and go new places. If the YMCA has good activities and programs, they will want to continue visiting the facility, he said. He also envisioned that his own kids would use the YMCA someday.

Pool members asked about pool only memberships and Heller stated that Mayor C.J. Wax had stated emphatically that there will be that option. Membership fees have not been determined, and can't be until there is an agreement with the YMCA of the Coastal Bend to operate the facility. Dianna Coleman questioned whether the YMCA was "taking the pool away from the people of Aransas County." Heller reiterated that the "pool is not being taken away." He lamented that the "wheels turn slowly" and it is taking time to get everything in place. Phil Gandy asked the committee if there is an "event sequence" that tells when various things will happen. Heller noted that the first step is hiring an executive director who will raise funds for the building and set a timeline. Until then little else can happen.

Adelaide Marlatt and Luke Michael

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Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.





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