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Behind-the-Scenes, Children, County, Healthcare, Parks

City University – {Parks, Libraries, Health Center, Civic Center}

Audrey Perry has worked for 44 years (!) at the Abilene Civic Center. She is the manager. We walked around the entire 1970’s facility, including its 1990 conference center addition. It was interesting to see the spaces getting prepared for a show in the auditorium/stage/backstage, an event in the exhibit hall, nothing at the time in the expansive, glassed-in foyer, and a high school football banquet in part of the conference center’s main room. We heard about the 800-pound curtains on the stage (never washed, but treated with flame retardant every three years), and saw backstage where semis of equipment can be stored in the wings. Traveling road shows come and set up from here.

My take: The Civic Center comes across as visually dated and my first impression was architecturally not one of activity and vitality. But it’s actually used quite often I think, and I’ve attended a couple of very nice events there (the annual Quilt Show was amazing, and I went to a holocaust awareness presentation that was sparsely attended but very good, in the auditorium one night). I wonder about publicity for events, and how it might be possible for people to find out more easily what is going on every week or month at the Civic Center. I tried to click on the “Upcoming Events” link on the city website and it didn’t work – after the listing being kind of hard to find in the first place. What would be great is a grid-type event calendar, with links to buy tickets or find out more info.


This month for City University we began at the downtown library (there are three branches) traveled to tour the Health Center (also downtown) and then again only a few streets away, were taken on the backstage tour of the Civic Center. Here are a few examples of upcoming attractions at the Civic Center auditorium.


Let me just say that I love the library. Not only for the fact that it’s free access to all kinds of entertainment and knowledge (and summer reading programs), but also because to me it’s a positive example of our tax dollars at work.


The libraries hold lots of classes, events and informative talks. Find some of their schedule on their facebook page here. Their blog can also be helpful.

We learned that there are 800,000 books and the libraries had 350,000+ visitors last year. The children’s section of the downtown library is the busiest section.

Except for the newer Mockingbird branch (a Friends of the Library achievement), the libraries do not come across as pleasant visual environments. The downtown one has weird, low, honeycomb ceilings with fluorescent lights suspended even lower on rods and the air flow in the basement has been rather stagnant in my experience. However. Did I mention the books? And movies? And books on tape? And events? I can deal. But my favorite is Mockingbird.


There are 31 parks in Abilene according to James Childers, Director of Community Services – a designation that he calls “the fun department” – and which includes the rec centers, the zoo and the libraries – “services that touch everybody’s life,” including a model airplane flying place he mentioned at Seabee park. Rose Park at S. 7th & Barrow just had it’s 100th anniversary, which we heard is an unusual milestone for a park. We heard that there are 20 playgrounds at the City of Abilene parks, and that Johnson Park in the far north of town was recently renovated to allow for camping. The Parks & Rec facebook page has regular updates.

Turf maintenance crews take care of all the grass and land in the parks, as well as a couple of golf courses and one municipal cemetery. They run into problems varying from graffiti at the skate park, to someone starting toilet paper on fire in a restroom. They will also be responsible for maintaining the new and recent medians (Pine Street) with their trees and landscaping. The 44 acre cemetery alone takes 35 hours a week to weedeat.

Hundreds of sports games go on throughout the year at Abilene parks, as well as tournaments and races. 34 fun runs or other runs took place last year.

There are some properties under a joint use agreement with the school district. These are at Lee, Mann and Madison schools. Costs are split between entities and public access is allowed.

My take: In a picture on the front of a nice map of Abilene parks that we were given (I can’t find a copy online – but it was provided compliments of Together 2011, a community-building partnership initiative) is a silhouette of a man sitting on a bench under a tree, with his bicycle parked nearby. This as pictured, is exactly what I would love to see in Abilene parks and have not at all found so far. There are simply not benches under trees, or bikeability at all that I’ve found. I have changed my expectations somewhat, but this is an area of interest for me. Would it be possible to “promote and maintain what we have” more effectively, as the consultant hired by the parks & rec department mentioned in the public meeting?


I was very impressed with the Health Center facility and the staff there. Built in 2005 it’s excellent in appearance, and the people that worked there seemed effective and dedicated at their jobs.

Lois, a nutritionist with WIC, talked about how every $1 spent on the program saves approximately $4.70 – partly because breastfeeding peer counseling and mother food packages save on healthcare costs later. A dietician works with obesity; they handle referrals for smoking cessation. There are WIC cooking classes once a month, presented by volunteers. There are Wellness classes. The lab handles quite a lot of samples and tests. Their goal is to become nationally accredited.

They provide vaccines, annual exams, pregnancy testing and treat STD’s. There was mention of a grant received from the state, for I believe patient education and counseling and teaching re: diabetes. Much focus on prevention and education being “the cure” was mentioned.

There was mention of the M.E.R.C.Y. Clinic – Medical Expanded Resource Center for Youth.


The Zoo is listed as Abilene’s #1 tourist attraction and in my opinion it is administered very well at present. Improvements continue, as well. Mr. Childers mentioned that the zoo is run in conjunction with the Abilene Zoological Society, who can raise funds and make improvements on their own. Memberships have benefits, and can help fund exhibits or acquisitions.

Enjoy this short youtube video shot at the Abilene zoo. Watch for that rhino playing with his ball!





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