I have been on what is now the Y’s board for about 25 years. I’ve had the amazing experience of being part of the entire process that led to the creation of our wonderful YMCA. When I was first asked to help, I remember thinking I could probably spare some time for a year or two. I find myself just as committed today as I’ve ever felt because the result of those years of work has added so much to the lives of our friends and neighbors.
The Y was built hand-in-hand with the city of Ketchum. The city’s government at that time understood what adding a YMCA would mean to our community. The city even pledged to match the first $3 million we raised. Although they weren’t able to satisfy their $3 million pledge, they did provide the land for facilities and parking. A 99-year lease and parking agreement followed. The “intent” of the building lease and the parking agreement was to ensure that the Y had a workable chance of success. The city also created a development agreement and rezoned the site, which included hundreds of parking spaces. Many of us, including those in city government at the time, remember those discussions well.
Today, the Y is a fabulous success with thousands of members, almost no remaining debt, a wonderful staff (the Y is the largest employer in Ketchum) and the strong financial support of this very special community.
But now we have a new administration in City Hall and they seem to have a totally different “intent” regarding the Y. They ignore the development agreement and read the existing lease and parking agreement without acknowledging their obligations to the Y and the community as they consider projects that could consume nearly all the adjacent land now used for parking. This is both disappointing and scary.
The Y board and its leadership have reached out to the city, but they have refused support. The Y has expressed flexibility with moving the parking areas to facilitate new construction, but we must somehow maintain our original building footprint and a minimum of 150 parking places close to our facility. The Y has 1,000 members over age 65 plus dozens of members who use the Y as part of their battle against serious health issues. Those people need reasonable access.
This is where the city loses me. Why wouldn’t the city recognize the value of the YMCA—including its impact on children, seniors and families, and the $900,000 of annual financial support from the community? Why are they not willing to work with the Y’s volunteers to maximize the use of that land? By not honoring its previous agreements, the city has put the Y in the position of having to defend its future. This should concern our members, our supporters and the community. It’s just the wrong way for our city government to function.
So, where does this go? What does our community think? What would our membership want us to do? The Y doesn’t look for fights with anyone—we’re the place of inclusion and diversity. We’re the place where all our children are welcome. Are we really at a place where the city of Ketchum wants to end up in court fighting the YMCA? This whole deal doesn’t reflect the spirit of our extraordinary community.
I hope we can find a reasonable way forward that allows the Y to continue serving this wonderful community.
Page Jenner lives in Ketchum.