Park it

The civic-minded got an earful about the intricacies of how the Asheville Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department works during the ninth installment of the city’s 2008 Citizens Academy on June 5.

“It’s All Fun and Games!!!” featured talks led by Parks and Recreation Director Roderick Simmons, Assistant Director Debbie Ivester and Asheville Civic Center Operations Director Dan Dover. The tour also gave Frank McGowan, the department’s superintendent of business services, a chance to introduce himself to the crowd.

For a city of its size, Asheville has an impressive number of parks (54), greenways (six linear miles) and community centers (11). From Aston Park’s clay tennis courts to the city’s three pools to the Municipal Golf Course, WNC Nature Center and too many other facilities to name, the department’s roughly 135 full-time employees have their hands full administering and maintaining the places and programs that enable Asheville residents to sweat and scramble for Frisbees.

“A less-known aspect of what we do is the upkeep of many other city facilities, including fire stations and police stations,” notes McGowan.

Also unusual is the addition of cultural arts to the recreational mix. Name a facet of public art—the Urban Trail, Pritchard Park’s new Deco Gecko, the mothballed Energy Loop—or a city celebration like Bele Chere or Independence Day, and there’s a Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts team behind it.

Thursday’s class departed from City Hall, traveled to the department’s office and continued on to the Civic Center, where Dover fielded questions ranging from the condition of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium’s roof to plans for the facility’s future. A stop at the WNC Nature Center had to be scrapped, however, partly because of the weather.

As McGowan put it, “92 degrees is just too hot.”

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