BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council has begun to contemplate the logistics of hiring a city parks and recreation director who would work hand-in-hand with the county’s new parks and recreation director.
At city council’s Nov. 4 meeting, no official action was taken on the matter, but council members said they plan to ask the city’s Planning Commission to submit a formal report on its findings regarding parks and recreational needs within the city.
Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said the idea of hiring a parks and recreation director originated in a Planning Commission ad hoc committee. Councilman CJ Rylands, a Planning Commission member, explained the position could free up the Street Department to focus solely on infrastructure.
“We keep having ongoing conversations around this, and I think we’ve identified six or seven city parks or entities that currently the Street Department manages, which is not [their] main charge, but they’re maintaining them and doing what we can to keep them open,” Rylands said. “But we’re talking about a major investment in Stockert at some point in the near future … I’m thinking we need to hire some leadership and possibly a few other employees to relieve the responsibilities of the Street Department, so they can focus on their main task, and we can elevate our parks and recreation facilities to be more of an asset in the community.”
Within municipal limits, there are six city parks — including the City Park, Fred Brooks Triangle Park, Stockert Youth & Community Center’s playground/pavilion, Harley Brown Rotary Park, Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone Riverwalk Park, Jawbone Park and North Buckhannon Riverfront Park — as well as the Buckhannon Dog Park (located near the Riverwalk Park).
“This is going to take some effort,” Rylands added. “This isn’t something that’s imminent, or we don’t think it needs to be imminent, but we need to maybe we need to form a committee, start identifying a specific job description, the expectations of this person, who’s going to manage this person, and what tasks are required. There are a lot of other things that have to go into it, but I wanted to start the conversation and see if we can build consensus around moving this forward somehow.”
City recorder Randy Sanders read aloud information submitted by the Planning Commission, which has appointed an ad hoc committee to research the recreational activities in the city and council. Sanders read aloud the steps the committee has taken thus far, including developing a survey; meeting with county parks and recreation director Adam Brumley; and visiting all the parks within city limits which had a number of concrete infrastructure-related needs members observed.
“So, the important observation to date is the ad hoc committee notes that there is a significant need for a dedicated parks and recreation director that would exceed the present matters of just maintenance and looking to develop programming,” Sanders said. In their report, the committee noted that hiring a parks and rec director “would build upon the Buckhannon 2025 Plan’s first nine goals within the health care section. Additionally, it would begin to address all 11 goals of the recreation section.”
The Buckhannon 2025 Plan is accessible on the city’s website.
“I agree with Mr. Rylands,” Sanders said. “It’s something that I think needs attention and something that we can start working on. These are assets in our community, and we should take a look at how to expose them to even more citizens. There are newer and younger people out there who may not realize just how valuable our parks are. We need to draw the attention to them again and open them up for as much activity as possible.”
Skinner said parks and recreation is an area in which the city and county could successfully collaborate.
“I definitely agree with the discussions with the county, being that they just hired a parks and recreation director,” the mayor said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re a small community. We have six parks, and the county essentially has one [major] park. I think there’s an opportunity to build bridges with one another to really tie in all of our recreational opportunities here.”
“I think we need to start the conversation,” Skinner added. “I think this has potential and we definitely need to do it right; that way we make sure that we’ve got the position lined out the way we want it before we start looking at actually writing the checks.”
Councilman David Thomas observed the city is a relatively small community and suggested decreasing the number of parks or consolidating them into fewer parks that are frequented more often.
“With the size of our community, do we really need six city parks?” Thomas said. “Are there some out there that are not utilized for whatever reason, that maybe it’s just a waste of space and we don’t need that?”
Thomas also said he didn’t see the need for the city and county to each have their own parks and rec director.
Rylands said one of the goals of hiring a parks and recreation director would be to double the number of park patrons, attracting them to rarely utilized spaces like the Fred Brooks Triangle Park.
“Maybe I’m wrong, but maybe if we’re thoughtful about it, we could find a way to attract more people to that space,” Rylands said. “And I think there’s plenty of work for both [directors]. They feel, in conversations with the county, that [county parks and recreation director Adam Brumley] has got plenty of tasks and things to do to fill.”
Rylands said he envisions the two directors working well together.
Sanders suggested asking the ad hoc committee to prepare formal report to council and encouraged council members to attend the Planning Commission’s meetings to find out more.