Money and work crews are the two critical things that make or break a successful parks and recreation program.
Some programs have a healthy budget to work with and larger crews to help get the demanding jobs done. Some programs are operating on a barebones budget with smaller crews. And some programs are working well because they have the support of the community and governing leaders.
How does Yazoo measure up with programs similar in size and perhaps budget?
The Yazoo Herald spoke with a number of parks and recreation directors from communities much like Yazoo to compare their programs in size, money and success.
The city of Kosciusko serves as the county seat for Attalla County.
Attalla County’s population is about 8,000 less than Yazoo County.
Yazoo City’s population is about 4,000 more than the city of Kosciusko.
Kosciusko’s parks and recreation department’s budget is about $54,000 more than Yazoo City’s program, however.
Todd Ables, director of Kosciusko’s parks and recreation, said their budget this year is higher than it has been in probably 20 years. He has about $298,000 to work with annually for parks and recreation.
Yazoo’s parks and recreation program operates with an annual budget of $244,779.
“We have been as low as $175,000 before,” Ables said.
Ables serves as the program’s director with two full-time workers under him. In the summer season, he is also able to hire five workers to assist during the busy season.
The city of Kosciusko has four parks within its program, which include baseball and softball fields, playground areas, tennis courts and a walking track. A splash pad has also become a very popular addition to the program.
Kosciusko’s program also allows the community to host several ball tournaments.
“We take pride in what we have here, and we like to show Kosciusko off to our visitors,” Ables said. “We recently had 53 teams come here over the course of two days.”
Does it help Kosciusko’s economy?
“Absolutely,” Ables quickly replied. “We like to see those big crowds come to our town.”
Ables said local parents are also very active with Kosciusko’s program.
“We merely provide the fields, but our parents have baseball, softball and soccer leagues,” Ables said. “The city runs a flag football team as well. But participation has gone down in it because there is now a tackle league.”
Ables said the Kosciusko parks and recreation program is a huge success. The community welcomes large crowds with popular tournaments. There is a healthy support system within the community. And his crew works well to maintain the entire program.
Yazoo County has about 17,000 more people than Carroll County.
And Carroll County’s parks and recreation department operates with a very tight budget of only $20,000 a year.
Brian Randall joined the program as its new director about two months ago.
“We have about four fields at one facility,” he said. “We also have a batting cage and a nature trail.”
Randall said a classroom facility is also in the works for the program.
Randall said he is the only employee under the program, aside from a few inmate workers.
“The inmate workers mean a lot to us, especially the ones who work hard for us,” Randall said.
Randall said when he assumed his post a couple of months ago, the fields were “horrible.”
“The fields did not drain well,” Randall said. “The fields were neglected and needed a lot of work done.”
There are no playgrounds within the Carrollton County Recreational Park; just ball fields.
Randall said the program is also unable to host tournaments.
“My big problem is equipment,” he said. “When I first got here, everything was broken. The tractor was broke, and the lawn mowers had not been serviced.”
Randall said he reports to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors to seek additional funding for the program.
“You have to beg for money,” he said.
“It is hard sometimes to justify what you may need for such a small program. For example, I have to have a tractor for field work and to move dirt.”
Randall said he has noticed more community support for the program since he came aboard.
“I am not trying to brag, but I do know a lot of people here,” he said. “A lot of people are happy with me and what I am trying to do. You just have to remember that it was neglected, but I am trying to bring it back.”
Randall said he is hopeful for the program’s potential since he continues to gain community support.
Magee is located within Simpson County, which has a similar population to Yazoo County.
As of the 2010 census, the population of Simpson County was 27,503; only about 560 less than Yazoo County. But Magee’s parks and recreation program has close to $100,000 more in the bank.
David Dunn, Magee’s parks and recreation director, said he has about $350,000 to work with annually.
But that has not always been the case.
A Park Sales Tax was implemented in 1999, using one-percent sales tax from fast foods and other restaurants.
“This is our 17th season with the one-percent sales tax,” Dunn said. “Before that, we would have about $50,000 to $60,000 to work with. In fact, we didn’t have a full-time recreation program until 1999 when the one-percent sales tax came in.”
Magee’s program includes a complex that holds eight youth fields, a high school field and a football field. There are four other fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a walking trail and an exercise area.
Dunn has two full-time workers under him with inmate labor as well.
“Our inmate labor is usually on probation and come back for a short amount of time,” he said. “We only keep a crew about two months.”
And Dunn also serves as the zoning administrator for the city of Magee.
“I handle both the parks and the zoning for the city,” he said.
There are some areas within the program Dunn that fall short under the main sport complex.
“With our four fields outside of our complex, we don’t always maintain those,” he said. “The street department usually handles those, and we will come in and help. But the budget comes from us.”
And Magee’s program is flourishing.
“I think we have the best program around,” Dunn said.
“We host quite a few tournaments, including three state tournaments, three district tournaments and other youth tournaments. We have about 800 kids sign up for ball on about 64 teams.”
What’s behind Magee’s success?
“It’s pride,” Dunn said. “We are proud of what we have. And the city leaders really have our backs.”
Dunn said basic maintenance is also vital to a healthy program
“You can build any type of facility,” Dunn said. “But if you don’t maintain it, before you know it, it’s nothing.”
But it’s not always about money. It’s about pride and dedication.
During ball season, Dunn said he and his crew will remain on the fields until 10:30 p.m.
“We are not out there because the city tells us it’s our job,” he said. “We’re out there because we want to be. We feel like it is our job to make sure nothing bad happens to our parks.”
Dunn said the city leaders are also very involved with the program.
“Our mayor visits the parks every night,” Dunn said. “He knows what goes on, and he expects us to take care of it. And we do.”