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Behind-the-Scenes, Parks, Recreation

Parks & Recreation Board Meeting

Parks & Rec 1 Parks & Rec 2

Attended:  Tuesday, April 9th, 2013.

Board members greeted one another with a lot of warmth when entering the room, there were bottles of water and personalized nameplates at each place around the basic-style conference table.

Meets in an unassuming room in the Community Service Department building, 633 Walnut Street.

Leroy, the representative from the Senior Center (Rose Park) was complimented for his “lovely invocation” at the beginning of the meeting.

Donnie Hardem, Recreation Supervisor, gave updates on some recent activities, including:

– 9 year-old girls’ basketball teams had dropped in numbers, and some other age categories evidently have increased.

– Zumba exercise classes @ Rose Park, the instructor had trouble with her contract with Gold’s Gym.

– Easter egg hunt had 5,000 eggs.

– Recent bike race had 250 riders.

– Spring Break camp had 40 kids, ages 6 – 13, and needed to pull staff from other areas to work at it.

– April was [senior] volunteer month – I think some kind of appreciation events were taking place.

– The Mayor’s 5K was mentioned.

– Summer playground registration was beginning the next day.

– A company called USA pools had been contracted to manage the city pools for the summer – a change from the YMCA previously having had that contract. The idea with the new company was to be able to provide more programming like swimming lessons and classes, in addition to opening for just general swimming.

– Because of the Affordable Care Act, they were hiring more summer staff than previously; especially more seasonal and part-time employees, in an effort to allow more flexibility for workers to have time off for attending their own church camps or family vacations.

– A garden report included that all areas were very dry and the athletic fields only,were being watered once a week.

– A quarantine facility at the zoo was approved, for their accreditation. The zoo reported big numbers of Spring Break visitors.

He was an engaging presenter, adding funny asides along the way, including a joke about it being a bad allergy day for him, and if he started “cryin’ it’s nothin’ to do with y’all.”

*One question I had was how often board members might visit these events and places themselves?

*I have a personal concern about young girls and women not being encouraged enough to be involved in sports.

Then the rest of the meeting went secret, and was closed to everyone except members of the board as they discussed what to do with Kirby Park.

When I asked a board member about this later, he explained that from a business/bidding standpoint this is a step they take; but also that the secrecy was for the board members to be able to freely discuss and hash out opinions about the decision in private.

When members of the public were allowed back in, the board had decided to table the issue for further discussion.

I went to visit Kirby Park, to take a look for myself after hearing about it at this meeting, and reading some related articles in the Abilene Reporter-News.

Apparently the City had been approached by a buyer interested in the land. Then they (the board members – I assume the final decision rested with them) were trying to decide whether to sell or not.

When I visited the park I found it to be attractive as a natural setting , as it was next to a drainage ditch and therefore greener than a lot of Abilene at that time (in April), in the middle of a big drought. However, there were huge potholes in the road leading into the park, so maintenance wasn’t current; and evidently it has a bad reputation for “illicit sexual activity” taking place there, with police often being called to the area. As well it is located in an unexpected place for a park  – just off Treadway Boulevard – which is a heavy industrial area.

Please see this post for further information about Kirby Park.

My take: Green space is important for a community’s well-being. However, funds being limited and costs being myriad, I can guess why the city decided not to spend money on Kirby Park.

According to the city’s website, there are 27 parks totaling a thousand acres.

Parks Information


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