City & Government, Springfield

Willamalane district shares future goals

Michael Wargo, Willamalane superintendent, joins Springfield City Club for an update on Willamalane’s district activities and its future goals. Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

SPRINGFIELD – The motto for Springfield’s Willamalane is, ”Deliver exceptional parks and recreation to enrich the lives of everyone we serve,” and Michael Wargo, Willamalane’s superintendent, said they have been working hard on staying true to their mission.
Wargo, along with Community Engagement Program Manager Kenny Weigandt, shared Willamalane’s past successes and future goals during the Springfield City Club meeting on March 5.
Willamalane has been serving the community for over 75 years. The district encompasses 46 parks and open spaces that translates into around 1,500 acres, five facilities and over 500 programs and classes. It was also the first special park and recreation tax district in Oregon.
”(The programs) further sets us apart from organizations this size,” Wargo said.
One of the big questions that the club had for Wargo was about what they were doing to protect children and citizens from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
”We are definitely, completely ready and have increased sanitization of all our facilities, and we’ve allocated more staff to keep wiping things down,” he said, adding that Splash! may be the safest facility because the pools operate at a high level with its ultraviolet (UV) systems.
Wargo went on to inform the club that Willamalane officially completed the work from the 2012 bond measure, which secured them $20 million. The district was also able to raise $3.4 million in donations and matching grants. The funds went to improve 16 parks, including updating Dorris Ranch, added three neighborhood parks and doubled the number of open spaces; Wargo added that they made sure to serve all areas inside the district.
”We made promises to the taxpayers that we would be good stewards of the money, and I think we developed on those promises,” he said.
For 2020, Willamalane has four visions that it wants to enact. It wants to become accredited by Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA), be active in the 2020 Olympic Trials race walk event, continue with the growth of their 1Pass Program and invest in infrastructure and employee development.
The 1Pass Program is available for families to pay a one-time price of $55 for unlimited rides and access to 18 different destination sites through Springfield and Eugene.
”It keeps kids active during the summer and has transportation covered,” Wargo said. ”It’s taken off.”
The program started in 2014 and last year Willamalane sold 8,400 passes. This year, Wargo said the district has added a relationship with TrackTown for pass-holders to attend a select event at the Olympic Trials.
For investing in infrastructure, some of the buildings in the district’s care are aging and Willamalane wants to reinvest in it by using the funds raised from the programs.
”We don’t have to reduce programing or ask for more money from the taxpayers,” Wargo said.
Already Willamalane has bought new servers, upgraded outdated business software and started a new payroll program.
Willamalane also teased the prospective indoor track and field project. Although Willamalane is not officially associated yet, President of the Springfield Community Development Corporation and Mayor Christine Lundberg, did approach the Willamalane Board asking if they wanted to be involved through ownership; however, the board has not decided yet.
”We’ll have another board meeting to continue talks. We’re doing our due diligence and listing the pros and cons,” Wargo said, adding that with the Bob Keefer Center also being used as an event space, the community does need to have another option of places to go. ”There is a need for that.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos