Training for the future

Training for the future – Rocky Hill Parks and Recreation Department

Looking ahead, the PRD has a proposed budget that includes funds of $1.7 million for trail development over the next five years. On the whole, Fayetteville’s recreation future is well spoken for. In 2000, a 10-year parks “master plan” was developed utilizing public input gathered from a series of 10 public meetings, a steering-committee workshop, interviews with city board and staff members, and survey given to approximately 5,900 citizens. The preliminary plan was presented to and approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on April 2001. In November 2001, the Planning Commission adopted guiding policies and strategies for the master parks plan that will serve as a 10-year planning tool.

Rocky Hill, a city of 17,000 people, 10 miles south of Hartford, is geographically and socioeconomically situated in such a way as to make sports and recreation opportunities almost limit-less. Aptly, the Rocky Hill Parks and Recreation Department (RHPRD) takes a comprehensive view of sports and leisure, offering both recreational and competitive programs in great numbers and–above all–making all of them universally accessible to its citizens; no one has ever been turned away owing to special needs or requirements. The RHPRD directly organizes sport leagues, coordinates all of the town’s sport clubs and associations and ensures that every child and adult has the opportunity to participate in a sports program.

Though the RHPRD views both recreation and competition as important, it recognizes the important distinctions between them and in general leans toward the former. Practices in many sports are optional and limited to one session per week. Only those players demonstrating both a high level of skill and an unusual level of commitment are granted entry into competitive programs. The RHPRD’s top three priorities are providing superbly trained and equipped staff and volunteers to work with program participants, providing varied opportunities for all community members to participate in sports activities, and improving the safety and quality of the parks, fields and facilities in which sports programs take place.

The RHPRD aims to promote sports and recreation as life-enhancing and character-enriching as well as health-promoting. The stated goals of the department are to improve health benefits, enhance self esteem, reduce stress, and provide life skills, with programs that are intended to promote family unity, reduce crime, strengthen neighborhood involvement, provide safe, developed parks where these programs can take place and where residents can renew their spirits in natural settings Parents, coaches and participants are given a code of conduct outlining behavioral ideals; overall, the department stresses within its programs the physical and emotional wellness of participants ahead of everything else. Affordability and the allocation of equal amounts of playing time–particularly within recreational youth sport leagues–are vital considerations in the planning process of any RHPRD activity.

More than 200 volunteer coaches operate within RHPRD programs. In addition to undergoing background checks, all coaches must attend a National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) certification course that focuses on coaching philosophy and how to work with children. The RHPRD not only pats the $20 fee for coaches to take this course, but waives registration fees for children of coaches participating in recreation programs.

In November 2002, the Town of Rocky Hill passed a $3.25 million referendum to upgrade all of the athletic fields and parks throughout town. A vast majority of the money will be used for irrigating, lighting and completely rebuilding many of the sports fields. Much of the work has already begun, with new lights on three fields ready for this spring season. Work has also been contracted to irrigate many of the fields and establish a new set of 1000-seat bleachers for the primary athletic field at the high school, As of fall 2003, the town’s community center gymnasium was under renovation, with a new wood basketball floor included in the upgrade plan. Within the next five years, the town plans to add additional soccer fields and restructure the baseball and softball fields to create “clusters” of Little League play and adult play.

The RHPRD oversees seven parks totaling more than 200 acres in area. Elm Ridge Park includes a pavilion available for private rental, and the RHPRD schedules a number of events at Elm Ridge throughout the year, including the Party in the Park Arts Festival, the Cookout Concert Series and Movies in the Park. Ferry Park, adjacent to the Connecticut State Ferry, offers breathtaking views of the Connecticut River and is the site of the Ferry Park Festival every Labor Day.

Only 15 employees staff the Rocky Hill Parks and Recreation Department. Yet the number and scope of available opportunities reflects the organization’s willingness and ability to interface enthusiastically and efficiently with Rocky Hill’s townsfolk–qualities that make Rocky Hill one of America’s true Sportstowns.

COPYRIGHT 2004 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group