Claremont Insider: A Reader Writes

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Reader Writes

We got this email in yesterday:

Hi Buzz -

You wrote:"Well, our post yesterday questioned the need for the sports park because the assumption that we've got a growing youth population isn't supported by the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census figures. And the trends are towards smaller families and fewer kids. The youth sports leagues claim to have more kids than ever, but that may because of higher in-town participation rates and also from larger numbers of out-of-town kids being allowed in. So, we wonder whether the need is really there and if the scarcity of playing fields is a self-created one."

According to the Claremont School District, the pool of young people in town is growing---4895 in 2001 and 5020 in 2005. These figures do NOT include any out-of-Claremont students who attend our schools. These figures do support the notion of a growing youth population, or at the very least argue against a shrinking youth population.

And your quote of "higher in-town participation rates" seems to side with those who say we do need more parks, no? If Claremont youth are more active and join more sports groups than an average group of U.S. kids (you can link to all the youth obesity literature here), great! Then we do need more park space for them. The "out-of-town kids being allowed in" admittedly does point to an obligation for neighboring cities to offer their fair share of park space for Claremont youth to utilize, if that is where the club or group is based. I don't think anyone is saying that Claremont parks need to shoulder the burden for the entire region.

Many Claremonters, including myself, are in favor of Padua Park. You may be against Padua Park, but you can't use declining Claremont school enrollments as the basis for your argument. It's simply wrong.

There are really several arguments here. Let's start with the first one about school enrollment. We're not sure where the reader is getting his numbers. We checked the Ed-Data website for Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) and came up with the following charts (they do not separate out non-Claremont resident students):

This seems to show total enrollment declining in just one year from 6,936 to 6,868. And the declines are across the board.

Further, CUSD commissioned a study of student population projections by the Riverside company Davis Demographics & Planning. The report is dated 1/23/07 and is available from CSUD (sorry, it's not online).

Page 12 of the Davis Demographics report has a table showing student enrollment projections for the next seven years. They show a total K-12 enrollment of 6,858 in 2006 (10 less than the Ed-Data table above). The table projects total CUSD enrollment to decline by 247 over the next seven years with a projected 2013 enrollment of 6,611.

The resident enrollment in 2006 is listed in the table is listed as 5,619. That is projected to decline to 5,414 by 2013.

(The report indicated it took into consideration approved and proposed new residential developments such as Stone Canyon Preserve, Old Schoolhouse condos, Village Walk II, as well as other condo developments and apartments. )

Interestingly, according to the report, most of the decline in enrollment is expected in grades K-6, which the report states is expected to decrease by 242 by 2013. The middle school (grades 7-8) population is expected to decrease by 43 by Fall 2013. Note that this is where the bulk of the youth sports groups are drawn from.

In addition, as we noted before, the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census figures also support our arguments. And, the school district itself has tabled their original plans to build the La Puerta Elementary School because there is no need for it.

We stand by our earlier statements.


Now, turning to the issue of the Padua Sports Park, we have to come back to the matter of out-of-town participation. Claremont's youth sports leagues have a 51% residency requirement. That is, they can use the city's field space as long as they have a majority of Claremont children in their sports.

Oddly, the city has never released an audit of those residency figures. And one suspects that for club teams like the Claremont Stars and the Foothill Storm, the number of Claremont residents is much lower than with groups like AYSO.

The answer, we believe, is not for each city to build its own facilities to compete with each other for a dwindling pool of kids. We think the answer is for neighboring cities to partner to have shared facilities. Sharing spreads the costs of building the parks, and it also spreads the costs of maintenance. It also fosters a cooperative spirit among cities that ought to be working together rather than against each other.

Building a shared facility also makes sense because Claremont does not have the space to build all the facilities the youth groups are asking for. The Youth Sports Committee (part of the city's Human Services Commission) indicated last year that they want eight more soccer fields. Padua Sports Park would only provide two. Why not work with Upland, La Verne, Pomona, or Montclair to build a shared sports complex that would be large enough to satisfy the claimed need?

We also want to remind the reader that while many residents may be for the Padua Sports Park, most are not. The 2005 poll conducted by Claremont for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture showed that only 39% of the residents surveyed thought new parks and recreation facilities was a priority. It was, in fact, last on list of eight items--below reducing crime and reducing traffic. Adding that parks component to the 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment was one of the main reasons it failed by a large margin (56% to 44%).


As to participation rates, as we noted in the past, there is a certain "youth sports fatigue" that sets in, and we suspect that as a percentage of the city's youth population those participation rates are fairly steady.

Lastly, the notion that youth sports holds the answer to obesity in our kids may not be entirely true. For one thing, sports participation falls off as kids get older because by high school sports become an elite, competition-focused activity, rather than a recreational one incorporated into lifestyles. The talented kids play on club and high school teams; kids with less talent have fewer places to go to continue playing and become more sedentary.

In contrast, kids who participate in non-organized sports, like those who hike or jog for pleasure, are more likely to continue doing the rest of their lives and will have lower rates of obesity.

Sorry, we remain unconvinced.