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Uncertain Future for Grand Rapids Parks and Rec

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This week, fitness hobbyists in Grand Rapids will get the chance to sign up for Summer Parks and Recreation classes. And, at $39 per class, these 10 week fitness programs are simply the best deal in town. But if the Tuesday ballot request for a tax increase isn’t passed, these classes could be in danger. 
According to John Judnich, Recreation Supervisor for the Grand Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation, the outcome of the Tuesday vote will play an important role in Parks and Recreation’s future. Should the ballot request fail, Parks and Recreation classes, along with park maintenance and after school classes and sports, could be eliminated. 
Parks and Recreation classes have continued to be popular among Grand Rapids residents over the past several years, especially since funding issues forced the elimination of Grand Rapids Public Schools’ enrichment programs a few years ago. During the Spring session, which ran March-May 2010, over 3,000 citizens participated in Parks and Rec activities, including youth and adult fitness and enrichment classes and adult softball teams. 
Parks and Recreation offers a variety of opportunities to keep citizens active. Cast off those preconceived notions about low-impact aerobics and gentle stretching to keep grandma in shape. Sure, those are on offer, but there are also a variety of modern movement activities meant to appeal to a broader audience. The list of classes for the summer session beginning June 14 includes everything from Urban Ballroom Dancing and Zumba to Hip Hop Dance and Outdoor Tai Chi. If you’re not quite sure you’re ready for these adventurous options, consider the more traditional: this summer Parks and Rec is offering at least seven sections of yoga this summer.
Kimberly Slendak has been teaching yoga for the Parks and Rec program for the last five years. She’s qualified to teach a variety of fitness classes, and teaches for private organizations in addition to Parks and Rec. Slendak is an enthusiastic supporter of the city program. “I think the program is wonderful,” she said. “It's affordable for community members – much more so than at a yoga studio. Yoga is not meant to be enjoyed by only the rich, only the elite. It has no boundaries and the Parks and Rec program makes it available to everyone.” 
Classes are not only inexpensive, but also very convenient. Classes are held at “community locations accessible to members of the city, easy to get to, close to home. And they are held at times that work well with people’s work, school, and family lives,” Slendak explained.  
The special election Tuesday may determine whether or not Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation can continue providing the best fitness deal in town. City Manager Greg Sundrom announced late last week that the failure of the initiative could also result in fewer police, firefighters, and programs for at risk youth. 
Polls will open Tuesday at 7:00am and close at 8:00pm. 

Disclosure: Jessalyn Richter is an avid participant in Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation classes.

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