The St. Helens Community Center is now open and operating at a former church along Gable Road.
The new facility is part of the city’s efforts to expand city parks and recreation opportunities and engage other community events as well.
“We are calling the building at 2625 Gable Road the St. Helens Community Center,” St. Helens Parks and Recreation Manager Shanna Duggan said. “The 1810 Old Portland Road (location) is still being referred to as the St. Helens Recreation Center.”
Duggan said the location of the new community center is a huge benefit to the community.
“With the new sidewalks and crosswalks on Gable Road, there is safe walking connectivity to our local high school and area neighborhoods, especially high-density neighboring apartments,” she said. “This provides many community members with convenient access to the community center and our programs.”
The St. Helens Community Center also has offices for the parks and rec staff and other community partners to be able to work on projects and other administrative duties.
“The new building also gives us the chance to offer other programs such as theatre, cooking classes, and more,” Duggan said. “With the proximity to the St. Helens High School, we will be able to use the school’s fields. The partnership with the St. Helens School District is a huge part of how we are able to offer so many activities.”
Duggan said the city’s vision in having the facility adjacent to the high school and to the surrounding residential neighborhood is to have volunteer and employment opportunities for the high school students and the community.
“We have added several teen programs, including a Youth Leaders Club and Teen Nights, and we have programs in development to connect our teens with the community,” she said. “This will give St. Helens teens valuable experience and help them develop skills to make them competitive when applying for jobs and college.”
The range of public services that will be offered at the new community center will vary and be dependent on the current pandemic.
“We are still strategizing with our community partners as we slowly bring back in-person programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Duggan said. “Stay tuned as we continue to evaluate short-term options due to continued restrictions. Our vision it to create a community hub where information and/or services can be more easily accessed for our community to connect and feel supported.”
The city parks and rec department is still using the building at 1810 Old Portland Road for recreation activities as well as using school buildings for some programs, according to Duggan, who added that there is a great need for public buildings for recreation activities.
The purchase price for the former church was $800,000. The city used a portion of its reserve money, as well as general fund and enterprise funds to purchase the property.
Duggan said the city’s parks and rec programs are utilized by a wide range of citizens across Columbia County.
“We have many users throughout Columbia County, and even some beyond the county. Our largest demographic is St. Helens residents. In the last 60 days, we have had 550 program registrations,” she said. “We want to provide a space for everyone to find an activity they enjoy doing. The vision is to keep expanding our program offerings.”
The St. Helens Parks and Rec Department employs contract employees that have specific skillsets to teach classes, such as paint nights, dance class, art classes, and more.
“If you would like to teach a class, please reach out to us and we can discuss programming and activity options,” Duggan said.
According to Duggan, the St. Helens Parks and Rec programs were launched in 2018 with the focus centered on youth and families.
“We saw the biggest need there,” she said. “Since then, we have added new programs to create a place for all ages that connect many generations. We feel that it’s important for different age groups to have recreational opportunities together to help strengthen our community connections. We have new people moving to St. Helens. One of the first things people say they look for when moving somewhere new is the parks and recreation offerings.”
Duggan said the future of the city’s parks and recreation programs is promising.
“We are proud of where we are today,” she said. “We started in 2018 with a movie screen in a park, then were temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, and now we are making a strong comeback. Our goal, as always, is to ‘Build Community Through Activity.”’
For more information, contact the St. Helens Parks and Recreation Department at 503-366-8208.