Small-scale improvements aim to make big difference in city parks

Benches have been repaired in both McKee Park and the Starkville Sportsplex (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Ryan Phillips

This past week saw the city of Starkville name Gerry Logan as the executive director of the Parks and Recreation Department, effetively removing interim tag. 

But Logan and others in his department have made little time to roll down their sleeves and they continually look for new ways to improve the look and feel of a public asset that can easily go unappreciated by many of the people using it. 

The most recent improvement came in the form of refurbished park benches beginning in McKee Park and at the Sportsplex. 

Logan said they noticed aging and rotting boards on some of the benches, so instead of hiring a contractor to do fix them back up, Parks officials did so themselves. 

“We have been going through and inventorying a lot of our park benches and tables and replace wood where necessary and get everything looking nice and usable,” he said. 

Now that baseball and softball season have pretty much ended, Logan said attention can now be given to small-scale improvements on city ballfields, which are often at the top of the list of priorities for locals. 

For the time being, though, Logan said the department will continue to inventory each city park to address improvements on a case-by-case basis. 

“(The monetary cost is) all minimal, but we’re doing a lot,” he said. “We’ve been asked to look at a lot of our parks and I expect you’ll start to see us add more tables.”

Logan said he has never been a fan of wooden park equipment and hopes to add more permanent bench and table infrastructure that would require less maintenance. 

“So we’re going to be working to add more bench and table infrastructure but I doubt it will be wood, it will be metal,” Logan said. 

While Logan said it is a small example, the improvements have been low-cost and make a noticeable difference. He said other park-wide improvements could be on the horizon, depending on the direction of the next several months, but there may be bigger improvements that address a wider range of thing. 

“I guarantee we will, It’s just a matter to time,” Logan said. “We will prioritize what takes longer … a lot of people talk about ballfields and we are by no means there yet.” 

During the baseball and softball seasons, Parks officials have been focused on improving the offerings for soccer, according to Logan. 

“I’m expecting you’ll see us prioritize those softball and baseball fields, trying to do things in the short term to improve them. We are just rotating areas of focus,” Logan said. 

The new benches are not the only upgrades seen in the city’s parks over the summer. 

New blue recycling bins from a grant received by Keep Starkville Beautiful are now in all of the city’s parks and being put to good use. 

The bins were made possible by funds from the Dr. Pepper Snapple/ Keep American Beautiful Public Space Recycling Grant. 

Logan then mentioned repair work done at the J.L. King Splash Pad after vandals damaged the bathroom in May. 

“It’s all about people, we have the people and the mentality to get stuff done,” Logan said. “We have the ability in house to do these things. We didn’t contract out the repair at the Splash Pad, we did it internally and it’s the same thing with these benches. They are old but you just have to have a little bit of skill and can do.”

Logan took to social media to show the improvements to the benches, and said the digital platforms available to the parks have helped better connect him to the wants and needs of the people using the city’s parks. 

“You’ve got to love social media, you post one thing and you get responses for why have you done this or not this,” he said. “There’s a lot we know we need to get done. If a lot of people have seen it, we’ve seen it.”