Room to grow at Starkville Parks & Rec

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

With Starkville’s potential plans to improve its parks system this coming year, the city’s parks director discusses where Starkville’s parks are— and where he sees them going.

In Tuesday’s budget work session, the board of Aldermen discussed its plan to budget close to $440,000 for parks and recreation improvements in Starkville this coming fiscal year.

But where will the money go?

“For the large part, it’s kind of an unknown,” Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan said. “We have a lot of potential things. We have a lot of needs.”

“Until the budget is finalized, we won’t know exactly what projects we’re going to include,” Logan added. “But we want to set ourselves up as good as possible for the future.”

Although Logan lived in Texas before he took his initial job as Starkville’s interim parks director, Logan grew up in Mississippi.

“I understand a lot of the challenges and the bad reputation Mississippi gets, you know, not just parks but just in general,” Logan said. “I was pretty passionate about changing that narrative.”

Logan believed Starkville would be a good place to start changing Mississippi’s narrative.

“When I came and visited (Starkville) for the first time, I came away with the impression and belief that there was a lot of potential here, and I still believe that,” Logan said.

In terms of parks, Logan believes they play a role in that progress.

“Parks can certainly contribute and have a good place in the community and help drive us forward,” Logan said.

Logan’s beliefs on the influence of parks programs is backed up by research.

According to the National Recreation and Park Association, America’s parks and recreation agencies generated $154 billion in economic activity in 2015, bringing more than 1.1 million jobs to the country.

However, among that research, Mississippi placed among the bottom 10 states in the country for the economic activity and employment opportunities its parks system generated.

Logan knows it will take a community to begin making necessary changes in Starkville’s parks systems.

“There are a lot of improvements that can be made, but there’s support from all areas, whether that be the mayor and the board. We’ve got some great partners in the school district and the partnership,” Logan said. “So there are some great partners.”

In fact, a partnership with the school district has allowed the parks department to increase the number of parks to which the public has access through a shared-use agreement.

“We now have public access to several of the school areas,” Logan said. “Signs are going up or have gone up for those.”

On nights and weekends, the public now has access to the park and playground areas at Sudduth Elementary School, Armstrong Middle School, Overstreet Elementary School and Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School.

Logan’s long-term goal is for as many citizens as possible to have access to parks areas. In terms of short-term tangible goals, Logan prioritizes current parks’ safety and accessibility.

“Public safety is always first, so that’s always gotta be at the top of our list,” Logan said. “Making sure we do everything we can for public safety.”

“We’ve got a lot of old infrastructure we just want to take care of,” Logan added.

For example, the parks department has recently repaired sidewalks at the Sportsplex, J.L. King Senior Memorial park and George Evans Park.

“Any busted sidewalk areas, we try to patch and repair those so they’re a nice, even surface and wheelchair accessible,” Logan said.

Starkville also has a soccer tournament coming its way next year.

“We won the bid for the premiere Cup for next Memorial Day,” Logan said. “So we’ve got some things to address at this park— at the Sportsplex— to make sure we put on a good face for that.”

One major concern is the drainage of the soccer fields. If the board approves the parks budget, the drainage will be a large focus of it.

“We’ve got some drain pipes and things that just need bigger fixes than we can do in-house,” Logan said. “If we do go forward, that’s one of our definite needs.”

Sometimes, improvements are also just “dressing up” the parks and facilities.

The restrooms in the parks facilities are heavily used, and even without infrastructure changes, the bathrooms can be addressed.

“We want to make sure those are clean. And sometimes, it can be as simple as a coat of paint,” Logan said of the bathrooms. “You know, it goes a long way to making people feel like we’ve got a new restroom almost."

While recycling bins play a larger role than an aesthetic one, they have also proved to add color to Starkville’s parks.

“In partnership with Starkville and the community development department, we were able to get a grant that helped us get recycle containers,” Logan said. “Those are great because they added some colors to the park.”

Although much focus can be directed toward parks and facilities, the programs that take place within those parks and facilities are important to a healthy parks department as well.

“It’s not just facilities, it’s programs,” Logan said. “Having good programs in place that meet the needs of the community. We’re constantly talking about that, evaluating that, asking, ‘What’s stale?’”

One recent addition to the parks’ programs is adult kickball.

“We only offered a few adult sports, and most of them were really competitive. So kickball’s a good chance to have something that’s a little less competitive that people can have fun with,” Logan said. “And we’ve had some excitement.”

From a family standpoint, being the father of three-year-old Graham Logan also helps Logan address program needs for families with children.

“Having a child adds a different layer of perspective when it comes to parks and rec, because it helps remind me of the needs that parents have,” Logan said. “The need for kids to have activities, especially during the summer.”

Graham has already impacted one of Logan’s plans for Starkville’s future.

“I can pretty much guarantee we are going to start having summer camp by 2020,” Logan said as he laughed.

Money or no money, though, changes are already on the horizon.

One of Logan’s favorite projects he has done in Starkville so far was putting in a playground at J.L. King Park, and Starkville just recently won a free playground unit that will go into Moncrief park.

“I’ll definitely take a free unit,” Logan said. “And Moncrief is at the top of the list on our needs.”

A HEALTHY PARKS SYSTEM

“Parks in my mind are all about the quality of life of the citizens,” Logan said.

From a physical and mental health standpoint, Logan believes parks improve the quality of life in a community.

“Being able to just walk outside your house and exercise,” Logan said. “People are happier and generally more healthy when they have access to parks. There are so many things that parks can contribute to when you have a good and healthy parks system.”

And Logan plans to help Starkville grow closer to having that “good and healthy” parks system, but the community's needs will drive his goals.

“We’ve got a growing, changing community. So just making sure that we do what we can from the parks side to meet those needs,” Logan said.

Category: