Monteagle’s Recreation Future: Communication, Kids, Getting to ‘Go’

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

What do people in Monteagle do for recreation? Of the 100 respondents to a recent survey, 81 percent listed walking and jogging. But equally interesting, the next nine activities ranked in order of preference scored relatively similarly in popularity. Participation in exercise class, biking, pickle ball, baseball, art classes, volleyball, archery, dance, and skateboarding ranged from 18-8 percent. The highest number of respondents (32 percent) were 50 or over, but the 13-15 year age group came in a close second (28.2 percent). Recreation Committee Chair Ty Burnette pointed out the older age bracket had the advantage of spanning far more years than the younger age groups. What do people want that they do not have? Soccer and bocce ball. Why is the Monteagle Recreation Committee collecting this data, what next, and how will Monteagle get to “go”? A March 7 townhall meeting plumbed the survey results to answer those questions.

“The things that get said on the front end are what you start on and where you go,” Burnette said. He explained the Recreation Committee formed when a group of residents suggested Monteagle apply for a grant to build a pickle ball court. To apply for grants, Monteagle needed a “recreation plan.” Facilitator Eddie Krenson stressed the survey provided “quantitative data.” The missing piece essential for a Recreation Plan and for grant writing was “qualitative data, what people are thinking and feeling.”

A Sewanee grad who played baseball at the University, went on to earn a Doctorate in Education, and to serve as a teacher and coach, Krenson led attendees in an exercise to take the survey results to the next level. Attendees responded to three questions writing their answers on notecards: What are the greatest strengths for recreation in Monteagle?; What are Monteagle’s greatest limitations and weaknesses in the area of recreation?; and What suggestions would you have to improve Monteagle’s recreational opportunities? Two topics repeatedly reared their heads in the attendees’ responses: communication and kids.

Attendees raved about the areas’ parks and hiking trails, but insisted, “People moving into the area don’t know what we have.” Likewise, despite advertising via Facebook and newspapers, following an event residents often objected, “I didn’t know about it.” Suggestions for ramping up the communication network included electronic bulletin boards, notices in water bills, a mural or map at city hall featuring area attractions, a tourist information center, an information table at the flea market, realtors distributing “welcome packets,” and a pamphlet detailing attractions. “A pamphlet with a map wouldn’t’ be that expensive,” a resident said, “and the other side could list business sponsors.”

On the subject of youth, many expressed nostalgia for a bygone era. “Technology has taken over,” one resident said. “Parents need to take their kids to the park rather than take them somewhere to be babysat. The ballpark used to be packed on Sundays.” Another resident recalled kids organizing neighborhood baseball and football games. Another recalled more emphasis on team sports in school — “Baseball was what we did in school so it was what we did out of school.” The overarching question: How do we recapture that enthusiasm?

Last year Monteagle lacked enough youth participation to field a baseball team. This year, Monteagle has partnered with Tracy City for baseball. Burnette suggested Monteagle could “take the lead on soccer,” although Monteagle lacked the space for a full-size soccer field. A parent suggested a possible partnership with St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. Another partnership opportunity could follow from encouraging Monteagle Elementary School to focus more on organized sports.

Is there a soccer team in Monteagle’s future? Will Monteagle have a pickle ball court or a bocce ball court. Burnette expressed surprise at the interest in bocce ball. “A bocce ball court would be relatively easy to do and wouldn’t cost a lot.”

Krenson will collate the responses to the questions, rank them hierarchically, and draft a narrative for use in a recreation plan and grant writing, a story about “what people are thinking and feeling.” Interested in getting involved? Watch the Messenger for information on the next Recreation Committee meeting. To contact Burnette leave a message at City Hall or email <>.

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