Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner and councilman David McCauley at council's Thursday, Nov. 17 meeting. / Photo by Katie Kuba

City council appoints members to first-ever Parks and Recreation Board

BUCKHANNON – After months of discussion and a series of town-hall-style meetings, city officials say they are now prepared to invest financially in the improvement of the City of Buckhannon’s outdoor parks and recreational programming.

To that end, at its Nov. 17 meeting, Buckhannon City Council approved a slate of six Buckhannon-Upshur community members to serve on the newly established Buckhannon Parks & Recreation Advisory. The advisory board will be comprised of six community members and one city council member, mayor Robbie Skinner said at Thursday’s meeting.

“This has been quite the project because it has been communicated that the time commitment for this, especially in the beginning, is going to be fairly significant,” Skinner said.

Council did not appoint the seventh member (who will be someone who sits on city council) but did approve the following individuals to serve on the advisory board: Scott Lampinen, John Bohman, Alexis Ross Butcher, Brian Webb, Rob Kimble and Debbie Shapiro. Additionally, Skinner said he wishes to form two committees that would serve as information-gathering and advisory bodies to the main board.

“I also mentioned to council members that I wanted to put two committees together underneath that board, one dealing specifically with facilities management and one dealing with programming because there have been a lot of discussions about [the desire to] try to make our parks year-round and have activities for folks that are relative to different weather conditions in our parks,” Skinner said.

Both the advisory board and the committees serving beneath them are volunteers. Skinner recommended that a Facilities Management Committee include Robert Osburn, Chip Allen, Lisa Tenney, Keely Burnside and Will Squires. Additionally, Beth Post, Rachel Ruffing, Jena Fealy, Levi Bender and Graham Godwin will serve on the Programming Committee.

Skinner wants the main advisory board – as well as the two committees – to begin meeting in January of 2023.

“I’d also like for these groups to try in the beginning to meet together – I know it’s a lot of people – but I’d like for everybody to know what everybody’s doing, who belongs to what group, and kind of start to have the charges to go out because these committees are going to help the board tremendously with the work that is being put out,” he said.

Skinner charged the three bodies with evaluating what recreational resources and facilities the city already has and what is lacking within city parks.

“What I’ve communicated to everybody is that we need to audit the parks as they are,” the mayor said. “We need to look at what we have, and we need to then be critical of ourselves and ask, ‘What do we want to fix? What do we want to improve? What do we want to detract from?’”

“At some parks, we don’t need to have elaborate recreation facilities; some parks just need to have beauty like the Marion Street Park (Fred Brooks Park),” Skinner continued. “I think it really serves the neighborhood well to just be a nice place for trees and flowers to grow and for people to just walk through every once in a while, and maybe go over and have lunch.”

Jawbone Park is similar; however, other parks — including the North Buckhannon Riverfront Park, the City Park on Park Street, the Wood Street Park and the Riverwalk Trail – have recreational equipment, “and some of them need quite a facelift,” he said.

City Recorder Randy Sanders made a motion to approve the slate of six advisory board members and the committees, and Councilman David Thomas seconded the motion.

Councilman David McCauley asked Skinner if the Parks & Rec Advisory Board would oversee all programming, with the exception of programming at the Stockert Youth & Community Center.

Skinner said the new Parks & Rec Board would not preside over programming at SYCC.

“The Stockert Board is going to be still responsible for the programming at Stockert Youth & Community Center,” he replied. “This will be for our outdoor facilities.”

Skinner said he’s emphasized to the new members that there’s a significant amount of work to be done in a relatively short time period, given that the budgeting process for the city’s fiscal year 2023-2024 takes place throughout February and March.

“Everybody that is on here is very excited, which is good, and I think this is going to end up being our most fun board because we’re talking about the fun parts of our community and improving them,” the mayor said. “I have communicated to everyone — just so we’re all on the same page — that this is not going to be a ‘sit-around-and-talk’ kind of a board. We have work to do … and it’s going to be good timing as we go into the budget sessions. The city is prepared to financially invest in our parks to improve them.”

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