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LaFayette Parks and Recreation Committee discusses park, director

The City of LaFayette’s Parks and Recreation Committee met for about an hour on Wednesday. It discussed several different topics, including finding a parks and recreation director and possible uses for the new city park alongside what is already planned. While nothing was officially voted on, the committee discussed several ideas that will be revisited during the course of 2021.

Several council members and Mayor Kenneth Vines campaigned partially on finding a parks and recreation director.

“In the past, we’ve had great volunteers, people giving their time and energy, to keep the program going. A lot of times, they work well enough when they have the time, but I think if we had someone that was employed by the city as a director, supervising all the programs, I think we can have a better program altogether,” Councilmember Michael Ellis said. 

Ellis referred the committee to the city of Valley, which has several programs for citizens of all ages. He also put forward that the committee could potentially reach out to the city and see what works for the city.

“That’s one of the things that I campaigned on was hiring a recreation director,” Vines said. “It’s something that should have already been done. When my kids were playing, I would have to leave work and gather up everything. It was a lot, and I was on the committee. We just couldn’t get things done like that.”

Vines said that he would like to have someone hired for the position in the next six months. 

Councilmember Shannon Hunter brought up the idea of developing a recreation director’s responsibilities over time. The job could start more in the recreation programs and when the park is fully developed the job responsibilities would change. 

“What do we need now and then think five years from now what we are going to need,” Hunter said. “We can look for someone who meets the immediate needs and might grow.”

Ellis also brought forward the idea of joining the Alabama Recreation & Parks Association, which represents more than 900 Park and Recreation Associations. According to its website, The ARPA is ‘dedicated to advancing the profession in our state through leadership, education, advocacy, promotion and service.”

“If the city were to join the association, they would help us with different sports programs and can even offer training for the director,” Ellis said. “That would be a great organization for us to be a member of. They offer several types of programs.”

The cities of Valley and Lanett are both members of the organization. The membership fee for a city of LaFayette’s size is $375.

The committee also wanted to find a way to open the new 52-acre park quicker. 

“Five or six years ago, I thought they had everything, and they were going to get it set up,” Vines said. “By now, I thought the park would be open. That’s why I’m pushing it.”

Ellis also brought up the idea of using some of the 52 acres other than the park. 

“What if we said we’re not going to use the whole 52 acres for the park? We still put everything we want to use for the park and not utilize the whole 52 acres,” Ellis said. “What about shopping for some affordable housing?”

Another idea floated was for a retirement community alongside the park. 

“When you’re talking about an affordable home, people are looking to come to LaFayette,” Vines said. “We may not attract the $300,000-$400,000 people, but we have people saying that we have family members that want to come back and live here.”