Even before it was put in charge of Albany’s civic center and municipal auditorium, the city’s Recreation & Parks Department (ARPD) held a multitude of responsibilities for oversight of public-use facilities and programs for all ages in the community.
The department’s Kristin Caso, marketing and special events planner, and Robyn Fink, therapeutics/aquatics events coordinator, outlined for members of the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on February 7 what Recreation & Parks’ mission entails.
Recreation & Parks is one of the city’s largest departments, Caso said, with 60 fulltime employees and seven coaches. It oversees seven community centers/gyms; a fitness and wellness center; two cemeteries; the Flint River Municipal Golf Course; the 2.4-mile Riverfront Greenway Trail, Ray Charles Plaza, Central Square, and Broad Street medians; more than 50 parks/facilities across the city; athletic programs including softball, basketball, and football/cheer-leading; and a pool and spray park.
ARPD also sponsors a summer food-service program that serves some 40,000-50,000 meals to hungry youngsters each year.
As events planner, Caso is in charge of projects such as Family Day, which began two years ago as a one-time undertaking but got such an overwhelming initial response – more than 400 people turned out – that it is now an annual event. Family Day is a partnership between ARPD and the Albany Museum of Art that received the 2010 Dorothy Mullins Arts & Humanities Award from the Georgia Recreation and Park Association (GRPA).
Another ARPD happening is the “Easter Eggstravaganza” held for kids each year in Tift Park. The festivities include arts and crafts, games (potato sack race, relays, etc.) an Easter egg hunt, and a special appearance by the Easter Bunny.
A key part of the success of these events, according to Caso, has been the participation of volunteers from the Southwest Georgia Home School Key Club. Their efforts resulted in the Key Club’s being named the GRPA Third District Volunteer of the Year Award for 2010.
ARPD does multiple fireworks displays. Caso said a crew composed entirely of city employees handles these colorful celebrations on July 4, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Under her purview, Fink explained, are the aquatic activities at the Carver Pool & Spray Park. These include water aerobics, swimming lessons, adult swim, the Junior Lifeguard Program, three open swims per day, and themed Family Day Sundays.
Fink also coordinates therapeutic recreation activities, which cover Special Olympics for athletes with intellectual disabilities. The department recently fielded a championship basketball team. Other SO activities include volleyball, bocce, flag football, tennis, and bowling.
In addition, Fink said, adaptive sports are available for physically- and visually-disabled adults age 21 and up. These athletes can choose from Zumba, Wii sports, Ten-Pin Rollers, Out-of-Sight Fitness, board games, and Beep Baseball.
ARPD has an affiliation with Atlanta-based Blazesports America. BlazeSports America provides sports training, competitions, summer camps, and other sports and recreational opportunities for youth and adults who use wheelchairs, have a visual impairment, have an amputation, or who have a neurological disability such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Participant’s ages range, depending on the program, from six years through adulthood.
From the information provided by Caso and Fink, it’s easy to see that Albany Recreation & Parks is, to adapt a well-known phrase, “park and parcel” of life in “the Good-Life City.”