Red Ink Comes to Henderson’s Parks-and-Rec Utopia

Slashed budgets, switched schedules and family fun: One mother's odyssey


Like many Henderson parents, a few weeks ago I was sifting through my Henderson Happenings spring/summer 2014 catalog, planning my children’s summer program around our 57 parks, 108 miles of trails, seven recreation centers, nine outdoor and four indoor pools. Just another day in parks-and-rec paradise.

I check for a course my kids have participated in at the Henderson Multigenerational Center for more than three years: Same place, same time, same teacher. Great! I register online, print out the receipt and read it …

The course time has changed. Hmmm. A typo?

I text the instructor. An email from her supervisor says the Multigen will cut its hours of operation by 16 hours a week starting May 24. The new hours, according to the message, will be from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays (not 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.), 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (not 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), closed Sunday (not 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.).

I wonder: Have I missed some official announcement? So I look for signage. In the entrance of the Whitney Ranch Recreation Center, I spot a small SBAHC poster—that’s Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee—with a website listed. On the website, I find the SBAHC recommendations to the City Council to “close or limit recreation center hours on low-use days.”

The recommendations are dated February 18, 2014, more than two months ago.

So, are the hours changing, as my receipt implies, or not? I contact Kim Becker, the communications and marketing supervisor for the Henderson Parks and Recreation Department. “Hours may change as of May 24,” she says. “But I won’t be able to confirm that until May 7, the day after the May 6 City Council meeting. A number of recommendations made by the Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee are being proposed for implementation, and hours of operation for all of the recreation centers and pools is among them.”

Since the new hours are already reflected on registration receipts, though, it appears the department is confident of the Council’s approval. Call it predictive democracy. Signage indicating the new hours, Becker says, will be posted at Henderson’s rec centers starting May 7.

When it comes to parks and recreation, Hendersonians have lived a charmed life. In cash-strapped North Las Vegas, city-run recreation centers have long since cut their hours to the quick: They’re closed on Fridays and Sundays, and open only 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. So, yeah, things could be worse.

Throughout the Great Recession, Henderson worked to maintain a robust parks department—and thousands of families like mine were the beneficiaries. “Over the last six years we’ve cut more than $127 million from our city’s budgets,” Mayor Andy Hafen said in his 2014 State of the City address. “And [we’ve] done everything else we can do internally without impacting programs or services to the community.”

The pending cuts, then, are a reminder that every municipality in the Valley is still vulnerable to the after-effects of the recession and the budget priorities of officials. Henderson, for instance, has a $19 million budget shortfall; it also has some of the Valley’s best-paid officials, according to the Nevada Policy Research Institute. Sometimes, something’s gotta give. Still, kid-friendly recreation centers might not be the thing, and summer might not be the time.

And when making schedule changes in a public recreation center, it might not be a bad idea to let the public know, loud and clear, before it turns up on a paid receipt.