July 1, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The nice thing about writing editorials is the author can work in the hypothetical. We can offer suggestions without the benefit of having to provide the infrastructure for providing those improvements.

Wouldnít it be nice if we had a community parks and recreation director? Scotland County has so many resources to take advantage of, it sure would be nice if we had a person responsible for coordinating all these assets.

I envision a parks and rec director that would manage the ballparks and swimming pool, schedule public softball, soccer and basketball leagues, hire officials, coordinate sign-ups, membership fees and the works. This would benefit youth as well as adults. We could have horse shoe tournaments in the park, meet once a week to play checkers or chess or put on a Gus-Macker like three-on-three hoops tourney in downtown Memphis.

There are plenty of us that would play volleyball in a league once a week if there was someone willing to schedule the gym time, create the teams and generate a schedule. The same could be said for softball, soccer, basketball, tennis, flag football, lawn darts or whatever.

The director could promote local events, the golf course, the lake, the racetrack and whatever other local sporting events that might bring guests to our community.

We have seen lots of the programs come and go, simply because it is too much work for the volunteers that try to take on the responsibility.

One central director would eliminate the confusion and prevent scheduling conflicts for park use and gym time. If you had a question there would be a person available to ask.

Not only would this position create a number of new opportunities, it would help improve the existing programs.

Take the little league organization for example. Each year the league struggles to find enough coaches and volunteers to keep the valuable baseball and softball program going.

The problem is, we are riding the handful of volunteers to death. They all have their own jobs, families and responsibilities, yet we call on them all summer long to give more and more time to the kidsí leagues.

A parks and rec director could handle scheduling, coach recruitment, hiring umpires, preparing the ball fields for play, coordinating mowing, concession stands and whatever else is required.

Please note this is not an indictment of those in charge of these duties. They do a fabulous job, but they have to be worn to a frazzle by the end of the summer. They work all day and then head to the ballpark to work all night. I applaud all they do to make these programs work.

I just remember volunteering to coach. It was hard to get away from work, go get the field ready to play and find an umpire. If you make the coaching job a little easier, it may be more attractive to a greater number of applicants.

Obviously that is just one example of how the position could benefit the community. All the other duties this position could complete would all add further opportunities for community members.

So, if there are any independently wealthy individuals in the community that would like to either 1.) volunteer to be the director, or 2.) pay that individualís annual salary; please step forward.

Therein lies the problem. How do we fund the position? The city and county both operate on limited budgets. Most people obviously do not favor a tax increase. You could raise some money through participation fees from the league users, but probably not enough. In order to attract a qualified, hard working employee that will do the job right, the community would have to offer a decent salary. With all the duties I suggested, it might even take more than just one person?

Like I said, itís nice to be able to offer suggestions without having to provide the how to. Maybe if enough folks feel the same way I do, we can put our heads together and build a plan to make this possible.

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