The Recreation Department is working with the University of New Hampshire to study the public’s use of community centers, such as the one in Riverton, on how to improve offerings or perhaps build a stand-alone community center. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The city’s Recreation Department wants residents help in setting priorities and direction for recreational offerings in the city, as well as their input on the possibility of a standalone community center.

A survey is being conducted to gauge the public’s appetite for a standalone community center. The city has three community centers on the mainland at Reiche, Riverton and East End schools. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The survey asks about the quality of offerings and how often they use them at the Troubh Ice Arena, East End Community Center, Peaks Island Community Center, Reiche Community Center and Riverton Community Center, as well as the city’s indoor and outdoor pools.

The survey can be found online and in paper form in the rotunda of City Hall and at the East End, Peaks, Reiche and Riverton community centers.

Marie Davis, recreation manager, said all three of the city’s community centers on the mainland are in schools, making them off-limits for most of the day. Programming is offered at the buildings between 3:30 and 9 p.m., but not while school is in session.

That makes it difficult “for us to be able to offer daytime programming on the level a standalone building and facility would,” Davis said.

The department could look to the South Portland Community Center as a model for a standalone center, Davis said. That facility is located next to South Portland High School, and is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays noon to 8 p.m. in the spring, fall and winter, with slightly different hours in the summer.  The Westbrook Community Center, located near an elementary school and Little League fields, is open and offers programming from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We don’t have the level of access we would like,” Davis said. “The charge from the city manager was to look at what we are offering, what we would like to offer and what people are looking for,”

Recreation Manager Marie Davis said aquatic programs can be offered during the day at Riverton and Reiche community centers, but because they are located in schools, much of the rest of the facility is off limits during school hours. Courtesy photo

The survey also delves into why people don’t use recreational facilities and programs in the city, as well as what priorities people would have in terms of short-term, medium-term and long-term recreational facilities, programs and activities and what their highest priorities would be.

The survey states that “one of the ways to gain indoor recreation and community activity space is to build a multi-generational indoor community/recreation center,” and asks about the public’s appetite to do so, how to pay for the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining such a space and what sort of benefit a center like that would provide the city and its residents.

The hope, Davis said, is to have a standalone community center built within the next 10 years. There is no proposal on the table as to where it would be, what it would look like, how much it would cost or when it would open.

“There is no money attached to it. There are no promises attached to it. It isn’t like we are going to build something next year. (The survey) is something basic to determine the interest, wants and priorities of the community,” Davis said.

The survey is being conducted through a partnership with the Recreational Management and Policy Department at the University of New Hampshire.

Paper surveys can be delivered by mail or in person to the Portland Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department, 212 Canco Road, Suite 1, Portland, ME 04103.

Public input can also be shared at three upcoming community meetings: Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. at Riverton Community Center, 1500 Forest Ave.; Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Gateway Community Services, 501 Forest Ave., and Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. at Reiche Community Center, 166 Bracket St.

Davis said the survey will remain open through the end of September and UNH officials will likely wrap up their work with a final report of the survey in October.

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