BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission approved creating a new full-time parks and recreation director position and job description.
Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte said he was excited to see the position come to fruition.
“This is something I have wanted to do since I joined the commission; it’s something this county needs to take us to the next level,” Nolte said at the commission’s Aug. 26 meeting. “Right now, our office operates as the parks and rec director and our maintenance department handles and takes care of the parks, so we’re stretched thin, but if we had a director who could handle those duties, we could expand Parks and Rec.”
Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace said the county has not had a parks and recreation director since Amy Hall left in 2002.
“The directive is to make what we have better,” Nolte said. “We’re trying to recruit people to live in Buckhannon, and one of the first things they ask, especially if they are a younger family, is, ‘How are the schools?’ … and the second thing they ask every time is about the rec opportunities. That can be just as important to the adults as it is to the kids, so I think that for us to eventually get there as a community, we have to have a parks and rec director.”
Previously, the county did not have adequate funds to support a full-time employee to oversee county parks and recreational opportunities, but several financial changes have been made since then, Nolte explained.
“When I came on as a commissioner, we didn’t have the funds to support that position,” Nolte said. “We’ve made some changes over the last couple of years, and even though our tax revenues are down, we made adjustments to our health insurance provider, freed up some cash flow, and we’ve made a lot of good moves in order to get to this position.”
Nolte said interested applicants need to come in ready to work and be prepared to use their creativity.
“You have to be energetic; if you want to be parks and rec director, you have to have that mindset, be creative and understand that we don’t have the same kind of funds as the Parks and Rec Department in Bridgeport,” Nolte said. “You have to be somewhat creative. Our office is basically consumed with parks and rec from mid-to-late spring through the summer, and the pool has to close down early because we don’t have anyone to run it.”
Nolte also noted that adding the position could potentially enable the county to keep the Upshur County Recreational Park Pool open longer, during some of the hottest days of late-summer.
“Most people who work at the pool are also associated with the school system, or the employees are high school or college kids,” he said. “It would be nice to offer the pool later — it’s been in the 90s for the last week, but the pool wasn’t open.”
Upshur County Commissioner Terry Cutright said they have also made a lot of changes to the Upshur County Recreational Park, and the new director would have to maintain what is already there, as well as come up with new ideas. In addition to those changes, such as upgrades to the park pool, the county’s Buckhannon-Upshur Recreational Park Advisory Board has worked with local volunteers to develop a disc golf course that is being finalized, and the all-volunteer group, Upshur County Trails, has carved out more than six miles of trails within and around the vicinity of the recreational park.
“They’re going to have to get accustomed to what we currently have,” Nolte agreed. “As far as long-term projects, personally, I would love to see some sort of indoor facility come to fruition at some point.”
A motion to approve the parks and recreation director position passed unanimously. The commission’s regularly scheduled meeting for Thursday, Sept. 2 has been canceled. The next meeting is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 9 in the Upshur County Courthouse Annex.