During last week’s County Service Area 36 meeting, Janice Lyle, president of the board of the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center, discussed the SJMCC’s first year as provider of CSA 36’s recreation program. The county’s Economic Development Agency awarded the recreation management contract to SJMCC in December 2016. Photo by JP Crumrine

The Community Service Area 36 (Idyllwild and Fern Valley) Advisory Committee met last week and heard about the first year of the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center’s management of the recreation activities. SJMCC Board President Janice Lyle spoke about the overall effort to assume this responsibility and Bob Lewis, director, Idyllwild Community Center Recreation Program, described and discussed the specific programs and opportunities being offered.

In December 2016, Riverside County’s Economic Development Agency, which oversees the operation of the county’s CSAs, awarded an operating agreement for the CSA 36 (Idyllwild and Fern Valley) to the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center.

The first several months of the transition were a learning experience, said Lyle. But as the year continued, the organization adapted and worked with both county officials and its new Town Hall staff, led by Lewis.

“This was our first time with paid staff, new liability and new insurance,” Lyle said. “It was a tremendous shift in our core management.”

Besides the daily involvement of Lewis and his staff, the SJMCC created a Recreation Committee to strengthen the community’s involvement with recreation opportunities. Pete Capparelli chairs the committee and is joined by Marge Muir, Chris Singer Perreault, Wendy Read and Barry Wallace. One of its first tasks was to review and analyze recreation programs.

Perreault prepares a list of Hill recreation activities each quarter. “We’re looking at all recreation opportunities on the Hill,” Lyle said. “Some we do, some are other organizations or private parties.

“We have to listen and try to respond,” she stated. “The SJMCC board is really pleased with the progress we made during our first year of management. We surveyed people in the community about what they wanted, we reviewed the existing programs, we improved some and introduced new programs.”

The recreation programs appear to be thriving and growing. “Jazzercise and senior bowling are very popular. They’re going very good,” Lewis told the CSA 36 Advisory Committee.

The traditional youth and adult sports continue to field teams depending upon the season. Then Lewis described a long list of other programs available, including plans for inaugurating a backpacking club in the spring. The After School program is beginning to grow again, too.

For seniors, Lewis listed a wide range of programs, from bowling and ballroom dancing to the future possibilities of cooking and backpacking. Ballroom dancing attracts 15 to 17 people weekly (from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays), according to Lewis. Some seniors still participate in the sports leagues such as volleyball, he added.

Of course, the current interest in pickleball has not waned, especially with the availability of permanent courts at the Idyllwild Pines Campground. These were completed this year.

One of the major projects for this spring and summer will be repair and renovation of the Town Hall’s outdoor stage, Lewis noted. He is seeking donation of materials and supplies before beginning the construction.

Completion of the stage work will affect when the “Taste of Idyllwild” will occur. “There will be games, food and entertainment,” he promised.

The contract with the county and the fees from program participants yielded a total revenue of about $250,000. The SJMCC expenses were about $230,000, for a net income of $21,000, But the expenses did not include the SJMCC’s contribution of $20,000, along with other funding sources, for the new pickleball courts. This surplus will be carried forward for future recreation program needs and costs.

Street lighting is the other role of CSA 36. Committee member David Hunt reported that one pole in the list of poles needs lights. David Alvarez, from EDA, said he would get more information for Hunt about Southern California Edison’s recent survey of the street lighting.

The committee considered selecting a vice chair to help its chair, John Metroka Jr., but decided to defer a decision after committee member Peter Szabadi said, “I don’t think we need a vice chair, yet.”

Opal Hellweg, of Supervisor Chuck Washington’s staff, confirmed that there has been no interest yet in filling the vacant fifth seat on the committee. If one is interested, call Hellweg at 951-955-1030 for more information. Applications can be downloaded at rivcodistrict3.org.