Making seniors pay

Ashland is a town that attracts many retirees. Our parks and activities in them are part of that allure. According to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Senior Center Subcommittee, 36 percent of senior taxpayers are over 55 and 25 percent are over 62. There are lots of activities that we seniors can enjoy: theater, concerts, OLLI classes, SOU, the YMCA, skiing, tennis, pickleball, Green Shows.

Ashland Parks and Recreation supports many activities that have been available to different age sectors of Ashland. The tennis courts are free. The parks charge no admission. The kiddies playgrounds and splash features are free. Hiking trails are free. No admission is charged at the Ashland City Band concerts.

The Senior Center Subcommittee has proposed that seniors must deliver cost recovery or else! Faced with budgetary constraints, they want the senior center to generate $50,000 a year. That is 1,000 a week. Is it possible that charging fees to attend tai chi, line dancing, computer instruction, sewing repairs, discussion groups, playing cards or mahjongg, or movies can generate 1,000 a week? Can the low-cost lunch program charge a cost-recovery supplement? It is more likely that fees for these services will dissuade seniors, especially those on limited budgets, from taking part?

So the cost-recovery aims will have to be met by fewer participants. This is a downward spiral to failure. Can we imagine that Parks and Rec can create additional programs that can generate their requested revenues? The senior center is not used after 4 p.m. weekdays and is available on weekends. Based on APRCs successes at The Grove, it is hard to be optimistic. Consider the competition from other programs that are attractive to fully functioning seniors. I doubt that Parks and Rec can lure many more active seniors and mixed-age groups to its revised program.

It is seniors with limited mobility or income who participate most in senior center activities. What we face is the end of senior programs. Ashland will no longer offer support to its seniors as do other cities. This is a sad end to contemplate.

I have been prideful of the good quality of life in Ashland. Alas, the future is not promising.

Mort Perle