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A vital part of the Norwalk community will be lost when the YMCA on West Avenue closes its doors on Dec. 31.
Over the past 85 years, the YMCA has filled an essential role as a long-established anchor of the West Avenue district. Thousands of children and adults from Norwalk and beyond have participated in its programs, from swimming lessons and Calvin Murphy basketball to fitness classes and child care. The reasons given for the closing were declining membership and contributions.
To accept that explanation on its face, or to accept it as “a sign of the times,” as some have done, is to gloss over the severity of this loss and put our city at risk of similar losses going forward. In reality, the loss reflects the failure to take advantage of opportunities as they arose.
A few years ago I served on the Membership Committee of the YMCA. We were optimistic then that the revitalization being considered would help boost membership and guarantee sustainability. I believe that this institution would still be thriving if our city fathers had incorporated plans for a new Y facility during the initial planning stages of the West Ave. development project.
If Norwalk also had done a better job with economic development as a whole, there would have been a broader base of businesses to support the efforts of the Y and its programs on a corporate level, enabling the employees of those businesses and their families to become potential members. Neighboring YMCAs have proven the effectiveness of this model.
And perhaps, if our streets were safer, more people from within and outside Norwalk would have felt more comfortable joining and using the facility, which is ideally situated just off I-95.