Days Of Our Parks & Rec Lives

Editor’s Note: From the weird to the wishful, we put it out there to see what you—the industry professionals--deal with on a daily basis.We picked some of those that will make you chuckle and others that will probably make you nod with understanding. Whatever the reaction, we hope that Parks & Rec Business is the forum for sharing ideas. After all, that’s what it’s all about—helping the community and helping each other.

Project Wish Lists (If Money Wasn’t An Issue)

Community Dreamin’

Dear PRB Editor,

Below is an e-mail I've been thinking about sending to our small town officials.

Dear friends, family, co-volunteers and town officials,

Every so often I have a recurring dream. It involves me winning the Mega Millions lottery; at the press conference where all the reporters are asking what I plan on doing with the $280 million and how it will change my life, I announce that after taking care of my children’s futures and my retirement plans, my next investment is to my community.

My community needs a recreation center--the High Bridge RecPlex--a state-of-the-art recreational facility and new community focal point. HB RecPlex is a 200,000-square-foot facility that features a family-focused aquatic center, an activity room, areas for dodgeball, racquetball, Wallyball and volleyball; a large field house with a gym for basketball, cheerleading, wrestling, fencing tournaments, community concerts, performances and talent shows; and a fitness center with a suspended running track.

This facility functions not only as a recreation center, but also as a gathering place for its growing, diverse population. It takes on county status, hosting reputable events, such as triathlons, martial arts and wrestling tournaments. And amazingly, the facility is fully self-supported, providing the community with a healthy outlet while not requiring any taxpayer dollars.

And that's where I keep waking up--without knowing how this non-tax burdening facility comes to light.

More ideas to move the project forward:

• An area of land needs to be considered for the perfect location for this dream facility

• Revenue bonds or investment monies need to be secured from local/state dreamers.

• A design and construction team needs to be developed to move on the next dream phase.

"Wishing" you the best,

Gary Mills

High Bridge Parks & Recreation Committee Chair

High Bridge, N.J.

A Festive Plea

We once received a letter from a 7-year-old girl who wanted to see a Ferris wheel added to our historic town square.

Chris Mackar

Painesville Recreation Department

Painesville, Ohio

Other Requests

• State-of-the-art computer network data center

• Blade server

• Fiber optic data connections for all of our facilities

Jonathan E. Huegel

Management Information Systems Specialist

Park District of Highland Park

Highland Park, Ill.



Looking For A Week-Long Program?

“We take a week each summer and theme it Holiday Week. Monday is Easter--we have a huge egg hunt, do the bunny hop, color eggs and the Easter bunny visits. Tuesday is Valentine’s Day--we make Valentine’s for someone special, decorate cookies, etc. Wednesday is Halloween--kids dress in costumes, we visit a nearby retirement community to go trick-or-treating, we bob for apples, pin the nose on the pumpkin, etc. Thursday is Christmas--we make decorations, set up Christmas trees and have contests (whose tree is best), sing carols, exchange gifts and more. Since we always have a special lunch on Fridays, this is Thanksgiving complete with turkey, noodles, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie; we talk about what we are thankful for and do Thanksgiving crafts. The kids love Holiday Week and we always combine it with a food drive for our local food pantry.”

Pam Gibson

Community Events & Programs Director

Franklin Parks & Recreation

Franklin, Ind.

Teaching Healthy Choices

Grow Smart Summer Camp is for youngsters 7 to 12 years old who have been diagnosed overweight or obese. Participants are referred by healthcare professionals. The camp runs three days a week for six weeks.

The focus of the camp is to emphasize exercise and nutrition as well as build self-esteem in a fun, positive, nurturing environment. The goal is to provide at-risk youngsters and their families with the necessary tools and information to make healthy choices aimed at reducing the risk of long-term health problems. Grow Smart Summer Camp is not a “fat camp” with weigh-ins or weight loss as its primary goal. Instead, the camp provides education and the tools necessary for parents and their children to make critical lifestyle choices and changes.

The components of Grow Smart Summer Camp are:

• Answer the questions--What are calories? Why do I need to care about sugar, salt and carbohydrates? Why do they matter?

• Tummy Diaries--What are kids eating? Tracking what goes through the lips and over the gums.

• Fitness Fun in activities known and new.

• Just Talkin’--Sessions with trained professionals to identify negative image messages and open up a dialogue about food, eating and the role they play in our lives--the good, the bad and the yummy.

• All Hands In the Kitchen!--Hands-on cooking demonstrations using healthy alternatives.

• Hi-Hygiene--Exercises in good hygiene and how it contributes to self-esteem

• Artful Play--Expressing concepts of food and nutrition through art and theatre improvisations

• Out of the Frying Pan--Straight talk and education for moms, dads and the entire family.

Bert Elizabeth Ijams

City of Yuma Parks and Recreation Department

Yuma, Ariz.

Polar Plunge

We hosted the first-ever Centennial Beach Pre-Season Plunge on May 16. It was an opportunity for beach visitors to kick off the 2010 swim season in a unique and “cool” way (as the water likely was freezing!) while garnering additional media publicity for the facility. The event was free and each patron received a commemorative button. There also were complimentary hot beverages and a door-prize drawing (the main prize was a 2010 beach membership). The beach’s lifeguards also took to the water for an exciting exhibition of skills.

Sameera Luthman

Director of Marketing & Communications

Naperville Park District

Naperville, Ill.


• Comic book drawing class

• Record-your-own music class

• Teen night--Guitar Hero and a movie

• Disc-golf tournament

• Skateboard championship

• Fishing derby for kids

• Easter egg hunt

• Halloween parade and Trunk-or-Treat with classic cars

• Chili cook-off

• Cleveland Cavs night (children get to go on the court before the game; substitute your own local professional team)

• Astronomy night

• Senior citizens Wii bowling

• iHoops basketball skills challenge

Chris Mackar

Painesville Recreation Department

Painesville, Ohio

Valentine’s Carriage Ride

On Valentine’s Day, couples meet at the park and leave their cars. Each couple gets in a horse-drawn carriage built for two with a driver who takes them to predetermined destinations in the city. They enjoy a glass of wine in the carriage and stop by a quaint restaurant for appetizers before boarding the carriage again and traveling to a florist where someone is waiting with flowers for the lady. The next stop is for dinner. The couple then travels through the beautiful downtown (along the river) to the next location where they have wonderful desserts and more wine before all the couples return to the park by the river where they started. Romantic tables for two are set up with candle light and soft music to enjoy after-dinner wine and watch a movie under the stars.

Elaine D. Smith

City of New Port Richey Parks and Recreation

New Port Richey, Fla.


Misconceptions About The Parks And Recreation Field

“Some people may think it’s all fun and games, but to succeed you need to be creative, highly organized, very responsible and have great people skills.”

Chris Mackar

Painesville Recreation Department

Painesville, Ohio

Spinning Our Blades

All we do is “cut the grass”

Jonathan E. Huegel

Management Information Systems Specialist

Park District of Highland Park

Highland Park, Ill.

“Parks and recreation departments are not very cutting edge."

We’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr--and we even have a blog that’s updated on a regular basis. We also send out e-mail marketing on a twice-a-month basis. Our fan base and e-mail subscriber base continues to grow, so we must be doing something right.

Sameera Luthman

Director of Marketing & Communications

Naperville Park District

Naperville, Ill.

“Government agencies typically are not good stewards of taxpayers’ resources."

At the Naperville Park District, we’ve been proactive not only in identifying efficiencies, but letting our constituents know what we’ve done to be fiscally responsible, particularly in these tough economic times. In 2009, the Park District realized significant savings through the fostering of partnerships, efforts of our Green Team (staffed by District employees), and leveraging the current competitive nature of the construction market.

Sameera Luthman

Director of Marketing & Communications

Naperville Park District

Naperville, Ill.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Most Common Requests

• “Where are the bathrooms?”

• “Is this free?”

Chris Mackar

Painesville Recreation Department

Painesville, Ohio


Ain’t That The Truth

Every year at our Volunteer Recognition Night, we invite between 120 and 150 volunteers for pizza and hand out a few special awards. I always present a “Kids Say” segment. Working with youth athletics, kids are always talking to me. Some of the great things they have told me:

• “My mom told me not to be intimidated by the boys. If they guard me too closely mom says a knee between the legs will take care of that.”

--An 11-year-old basketball girl

• “I stink but my coach keeps playing me and saying nice things. She says I have great potential. She is a nice person. I think I have potential to sit on the bench.”

-- A 9-year-old softball player

• “I have always loved playing with sticks. My mom is always telling me not to play with sticks. Now she has to buy me a hockey stick. I love it. I can’t wait to hit something.”

-- An 8-year-old field-hockey player

• “Kicking anything is fun -- the soccer ball, the dog, the cat. I try not to kick the dog and cat hard and I try to kick the soccer ball hard, but sometimes I mix them up.”

-- A 6-year-old soccer boy

• “Man I really miss it. I’ve had more fun playing parks and rec basketball than anything I have ever done. Even the kids who suck have fun. It is pretty cool that everybody plays and gets to have fun, I mean even the kids who suck are an important part of the team. And nobody ever tells them they suck either.”

--A high school senior whose high school baseball coach would not let him play parks and rec basketball this season

• “I’m grown up for my age. I really like boys. I’m not sure if I’m going to be good at sports, but with all the boys playing I’m really gonna like sports.”

-- A 5-year-old girl soccer player

• “I love sports. If school were sports I would be glad to do homework. If all the world leaders would just play sports for parks and rec, maybe we would not have to worry about being poisoned, shot or blown up.”

-- A very astute 11-year-old boy who played softball, soccer and basketball

Billy Moore

Athletic Supervisor

Gloucester Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Gloucester, Va.


More Requests/Complaints

• What days is the garbage picked up? We get several of these every year. We just forward them to the director and let her make the important decisions.

• Can guys under 35 play in the over 35 league? When I say no, invariably the person asks why we don’t.

• An irritated mother confronted me at the soccer field and wanted to know why her 5-year-old child had to be referred to as a rodent. I think she was referring to our 5-year-old Rugrat soccer league. It seemed like a cool name at the time.

• We try to help people with legitimate carpool requests each season. We ask that no more than one request be made and that it be made by both parties since carpool requests are a giant pain at best. But this actual request came my way for field hockey: “My child needs to carpool with Suzy, Darlene, Victoria, Lauren, Sarah and Ashley. She needs to be on Coach Mariah’s team and cannot play on Mondays and Thursdays. (The names were changed to protect the innocent.)

• Recently an elderly man who I could barely understand called the department. “Parks, Recreation and Tourism, may I help you,” I said. “How many shots for a tetanus,” he snapped at me. Now I have been asked many weird questions through the years, but this seems a question for the doctor’s office. “I really don’t know,” I responded. He came back with an angry, “Well it’s your damn league and it’s your damn rules.” Now I am totally confused, so I say, “I am not sure what you are asking me.” The man then yells at me “A tetanus--how many foul shots for a tetanus foul.” I say, “Oh, a tetanus foul, I always thought it was a technical foul. That would be two shots and the ball.” He snaps, “Well that’s not right.” “But it’s the rule.” He snaps, “Well it’s your stupid rule.” Then he hung up on me. One good thing about our jobs--we are always learning something!

Billy Moore

Athletic Supervisor

Gloucester Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Gloucester, Va.