TAKE 5: Parks & Recreation abuzz with activity

Jul. 13, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

This week, we Take 5 with John Payne, the director of Lee County Parks & Recreation, about the department's summer programs and park system. Payne, who has been in his position since 1997, is a graduate of Western Carolina University. He and his wife, Terri, have two sons, Josh and Justin.

What kinds of activities is the parks and recreation department involved in this summer?

The department has just completed preschool baseball, youth baseball/softball league and tournament play, as well as adult softball. There is one week of summer basketball program remaining. Summer T-ball has begun and will finish in early August. Registrations for youth football and volleyball are now being accepted. Tramway Road Park continues to host travel baseball weekend tournaments usually involving about 20 teams.

Gymnastics conducts classes for more than 400 students in the summer session. They also offer birthday party packages on weekends. The birthday parties provide one hour of supervised age-appropriate play on the equipment and one hour for the party.

Pools have enjoyed a busy schedule of swim lessons, aqua aerobics classes, swim team practices, public swim and private rental parties. The fourth of five sessions of swim lessons is just beginning. Session 5 lessons will begin July 29th. Space is very limited in the classes, so please call for availability.

Summer camps at San-Lee Park have just completed the third of seven camps. Each camp has a different theme, and activities relate to the theme. Again, space in these camps is very limited.

San-Lee Park has been packed on weekends since spring. The park offers camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, biking and boating. The mountain bike trail at the park is quite popular and draws bike enthusiasts from all around central NC and beyond. There are two stocked ponds that provide for a popular pastime for residents.

What projects have been completed recently or are now under way?

Buchanan Park came back on line this spring following the devastating tornado of April 2011. Lowe’s Home Improvement was instrumental in getting the park put back together both with corporate financial support as well as volunteer labor from local Lowe’s employees. Those who have not seen the park recently will be pleasantly surprised at how nice it looks.

The proposal for a dog park in Lee County is coming together. There were some concerns with the original location. The plan now is to locate the facility at O.T. Sloan Park at the entrance to the tennis courts, which will better address concerns about safety and separation of user group activities. Support for this project is strong within the community.

Some Horton Park renovation work has been done. Several new pieces of playground equipment have been installed recently. Immediate plans going forward include replacement of dugout roofs at the ball field (an Eagle Scout project), development of at least two handicap parking spaces with paths leading to the basketball court and playground, fencing the basketball court, and possibly adding a walking path along the perimeter of the ball field. What to do with the pool is a question remaining to be answered, with one possible option being to convert the pool to a spray-ground to provide water play while eliminating the danger of drowning.

San-Lee Park staff and volunteers have been working on development of additional parking. An area is being readied to help alleviate some of the weekend parking issues encountered by staff. This project should be complete very soon weather permitting.

How have the recent rains affected the parks and operations?

The most recent heavy rain on July 3 flooded Kiwanis Family Park, washing out ruts on the exercise trail and causing a large oak to fall across the greenway. Thanks to Lee County Operational Services personnel, the greenway was cleared and the trails repaired on July 5.

A couple of bridges at San-Lee Park were also damaged by high water and debris. The Westley Bridge on the Thoreau Trail upstream of the upper pond was severely damaged and is not yet completely repaired.

Outdoor sports events have had to be rescheduled or canceled. Turf maintenance activities have also been delayed.

How do I find out if a program or event has been postponed or rescheduled due to inclement weather?

The department has a weather line that is updated when there are cancellations due to weather. Most often this involves ball games where fields are unplayable due to wet conditions. The weather line is updated after 3 p.m. when cancellations occur. The weather line number is (919) 774-7999.

What else would you like residents to know about parks and recreation?

Registrations are coming up this month for fall programs. There is youth football, volleyball, adult softball, gymnastics, Tiny Tots and children's dance programs. Some programs fill up quickly, so residents should check for registration dates and times. I would encourage residents to visit the website or give us a call. This information may be found on the county website at www.leecountync.gov/departments/parksrecreation or call (919) 775-2107.

Also, the department wants citizen input. Staff works hard to fulfill the department's mission of providing a broad range of affordable and accessible recreation and leisure opportunities. Citizen input, and especially citizen support, helps decision makers in evaluating operations, planning improvements and implementing programs. I would encourage our citizens to visit our website often, take time to complete surveys and contact the department with any concerns they may have by calling our offices.