MARCO ISLAND — Island organizations, which frequently host competitive activities, are uniting with the goal of no longer competing with one another.
Founders of the Optimist Club, an Island athletic organization formed in July 2008, met with Marco YMCA leaders, city parks and recreation officials and leaders in athletics from the Marco Island Charter Middle School Tuesday morning at the school.
The meeting was organized by Steve Stefanides who set out to find ways of improving efficiencies in the city parks and recreation department as part of his duties as a volunteer with the city’s financial planning committee.
“Any time we can get the four of us together it’s a step in the right direction and it’s the first time this has ever happened,” said Greg West of the Optimist Club.
Representatives from each of the organizations discussed what services they provide, what resources they have and what resources are needed.
“We’re the only ones sitting at the table that don’t have facilities. We rely on the charity of you guys to provide them so we can provide the services,” said Tom Garousi, president of the Optimist Club.
Of the resources most lacking, about 20 people from the four organizations agreed, sports fields and cooperation are lacking in the Island’s offerings of athletics and recreation.
“The biggest thing that happened here today was getting these groups working together. We may not have a lot of money to do new things, but maybe we can use what we have better,” Stefanides said.
Garousi questioned the possibility of filling part of Mackle Park’s lake to extend the fields.
Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk said he wasn’t sure the idea would be desired by other stakeholders in the park, including remote control boaters who hold regattas at the lake.
Milk said he will investigate the cost and potential of lighting the current athletic fields to extend the hours existing fields can be used.
“You put lights on those fields, you’ve basically created a new field,” said Roger Raymond, athletic director at the Marco Island Charter Middle School.
Raymond saw the lack of a running track on Island as a “glaring" void on the Island.”
Milk said there may be potential in putting a track around an existing field at Mackle Park or another city park.
City Manager Steve Thompson said taxes are primarily what pay for such city facilities.
“We don’t do fish fries ... but you can do anything if you phase it over time. These are relatively small projects. All you have to do is decide you want them,” he said.
Competition rather than cooperation was a concern Cindy Love, director of the Marco YMCA, has mentioned regarding the four Island organizations.
“We (the YMCA) have been here 30 years. Up until recently, when the Optimist Club was formed, we had sports even before the charter school,” Love said.
“We’re not here to compete. The Y isn’t going completely out of sports. We’re going to offer the ones you don’t,” she added.
Garousi said a primary reason for starting the Optimist Club was to provide hundreds of children, many who didn’t make the school’s sports teams, a chance to participate.
“I sincerely believe if you don’t keep the kids engaged, they’ll find trouble,” he added.
Leaders of the Island’s four athletic and recreation organizations have planned to meet again tentatively scheduled 8 a.m., April 1, at Marco Island Charter Middle School, to discuss coordinating their services and sport schedules. Also on the agenda will be summer camps.