Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge Rotating Header Image

Anticipating an excellent Parks & Recreation Board

Tonight City Council has the wonderful opportunity of choosing 9 fine citizens to serve on the new Parks & Rec Board, but we also will have to “not choose” 51 equally fine applicants. I can’t vote for nearly everyone I have a high opinion of — so I’m thinking about how to harness some of the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by the applicants we can’t appoint.

I hope the board members will be people who are effective at getting things done and working as team members, open to new ideas, and respectful of other views — and I want them to represent a variety of experiences, recreation interests, stages in life, and neighborhoods. I’m acquainted with about half the applicants, including several who have amazing track records at making good things happen. I find myself evaluating applicants on minor things like whether their jobs demand a lot of out-of-town travel that would cause them to miss meetings.

I’ve told the city manager that the staff and board should be encouraged to create several “task forces”, consisting largely of non-members, to work on several specific topics on this board’s plate — particularly items that need some focused effort in a limited time period. Task forces I envision include:

  • Dog park. This is a need identified by a number of residents — and a special interest that is unlikely to be a focus for most members of the parks board. Also, if a dog park is started, there will need to be a strong user community (of dog owners) to police it. Starting a task force that is related to the parks board, but separate from it, would be a good start towards creating that community of responsible users.
  • Play. The organization KaBoom! designates “Playful Cities USA” based on a city’s commitment to play (for kids, not dogs). This would be a nice designation for our city, and some of this think it could be attained at minimal cost. Starting a “Playful City” program is likely to require some intensive involvement from a core group, but for a relatively short period. That’s a good thing to assign to a task force that will report regularly to the full committee.
  • Edgemoor Road corridor. Planning for integration of bike paths and other recreational facilities with the widened highway is another activity on city staff’s menu for this committee. This is another topic that is likely to require fairly intensive involvement for a defined period of time, making it a good thing to assign to a focused task force. Additionally, this is something that would be a strong fit for the experience, skills, and interests of some parks board applicants, but is unlikely to be of particular interest to the majority of applicants/appointees.
  • Programming for seniors. This is not supposed to be part of the new board’s scope, but there are a few parks board applicants whose main/sole stated interest is the senior center and who may have some good things to offer — and opportunities may exist for improvements. This task force would involve an intersection with the Elder Citizens Advisory Board (ECAB) and would look at possible new activities for the senior center and opportunities for increased integration/coordination with other recreation programs inside and outside the city’s recreation and parks department. I believe there are opportunities for program enhancements at minimal cost, and some fresh thinking on senior programs could be very helpful in planning for future senior center facilities.
  • City relationship with various local sports/recreation interest groups. Developing and revising policies and protocols is likely to be a long-term challenge for the parks board, but some early focused discussions and interactions could be beneficial.

I am looking forward to hearing from people who have other good ideas — and I’m anticipating awesome contributions from this new board!

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