Nalini Joseph: For Salisbury Parks and Recreation, the job is much more than kids and sports
By Nalini Joseph
I’ve had the privilege of spending the last few months getting to know more about the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department.
When I signed up to serve as a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, I thought, “How complicated can this position be? I’ll participate in conversations about kids, sports and city beautification projects!” Well, fast forward 12 months, and I have come to realize that Parks and Rec is about so much more than Parks and Rec. Most of the Parks and Rec staff have degrees as recreation specialists, including Sam Wilborn, assistant director, and Director Nick Aceves, a certified parks and recreation professional with a master’s in science.
In order to be a Parks and Rec employee, you have to be in an expert in a variety of subjects: engineering (math skills required!) physical fitness and wellness, budgeting, grant writing, policy making, demographic studies, event planning, environmental and conservation sciences, human resources, networking and so much more. When you’re building a bridge across a stream, designing a park or figuring out how to replace a 30-year-old sewer line that is underwater, you have to be adept in science, architecture, technology and teamwork.
Adaptability is critical when working within the Parks and Rec program: what works and is attractive to a certain segment of the population today may not work at all for that same demographic in a year or two. One must keep adapting and finding new ways to keep as many people engaged — mentally, physically and spiritually — as possible. Should tennis courts be converted into pickleball courts? Should after-school programs continue? Should money be spent on beautifying a park or preserving a recreation center that needs a complete and expensive overhaul in equipment? This mindset that the Parks and Rec crew have reminded me of an important aspect of most business models that work consistently: the business has to find ways to keep customers interested in their product.
Businesses are notorious for advertising products as “new and improved.” Businesses have to cater to customers’ ever-changing wants and needs. As demographics change and as the needs and desires of each population segment changes, businesses must diversify and introduce new products or offer new features to their original product. (I’ve lost count of how many upgrades my office computer and I have been subjected to over the last year.)
If you have the opportunity to meet a Parks and Rec staff member, the one thing you will feel within just a few minutes of conversation is energized. This department is the most enthusiastic government entity that I have ever encountered, and I’ve worked in government programs and organizations for about 28 years!
I was told by Director Nick and Assistant Director Sam that this attitude of energy and commitment to each citizen’s well-being is a common trend throughout all Parks and Recreation departments across the country.
One big project that keeps our Parks and Rec staff invigorated is the Bell Tower Green project. When complete, we will have a beautiful and functional area for our city’s residents. Maybe we will have community congregational worship on the lawn on Sunday evenings and yoga and meditation on Saturday mornings. Maybe we will have weddings, family gatherings and festivals on the green. The possibilities for holistic and cultural activities are endless.
How can you, as a citizen of our lovely city of Salisbury, help our great Parks and Recreation department in their important work? One thing you can do is keep our city clean and litter-free. To show appreciation for our landscape and places of recreation and peace, we must treat our city like our home. When someone from another region asks you where you live, you don’t answer with a street address; instead, you say “Salisbury is my home.”
As we enter back into some semblance of normalcy, let’s remember to value and take care of our home — Salisbury.
Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 11-year-old Rohan, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.