Paul Adams, Director of Parks and Recreation, for the City of South Gate, answered five questions for South Gate Patch Latino about the budgetary pressures of his department and on some the projects that residents can expect in 2012.
South Gate Patch Latino: What is the role of the Director of Parks and Recreation?
Paul Adams: Technically speaking, the Director of Parks & Recreation is part of the executive management team who manages the City according the the direction and who specifically directs activities related to the development, management and operation of the City's Parks and its Recreation programs. I am there to follow the City Council's direction, but also, along the Parks & Recreation Commission am there to advise the City Council and help to interpret the communities needs and priorities as they relate to Parks & Recreation matters.
In a more practical description, I run the , comprised of three divisions; Park Maintenance, Recreation Programs and Transit Services. I directly supervise the management staff responsible for these divisions, helping them to set goals and identify means for carrying out City Council direction. I spend much of my time planning and implementing the many park improvement projects which are constantly going on at one park or another. On a daily basis, this means interacting with contractors, architects, other agencies, other city departments, local volunteers, members of the community and my staff in order to see that everything that should be happening does and to make sure that our parks and programs help to make our residents lives better each day.
South Gate Patch Latino: What are some of the biggest challenges that your department has faced over the year with this economy?
Paul Adams: Of course the biggest challenge is the lack of resources. We have lots of things that we would like to do, but just dont have the man power or resources to do them. We have done our best to not reduce services or, when we have had to, to reduce them in ways that will have the least impact on the public. The two biggest challenges for me have been finding additional funding sources and keeping up staff morale. When budgets get tight, you can either reduce what you do or find other ways to fund those things. As much as possible, we have been seeking grants, finding partners and other ways to do things and finding other funding sources to help keep programs and our parks running.
Keeping up staff morale is also big issue. All City staff took a 10% cut a few years back and no one has received an increase, even for cost of living, since. This means that I have to ask my staff to work harder and do more, because we have fewer of them, and they are getting paid less to do so. So far our Union and employees have been good partners, doing everything that they can to keep important city services intact. We all hope that things improve soon though.
South Gate Patch Latino: How is the department dealing with these challenges and will the public be impacted?
Paul Adams: My staff has just been outstanding, taking on additional responsibilities and workload to make sure that everything gets done. Many of the suggestions of how to conserve or reduce our costs have come from my staff. They are really committed to what they do for the community. We have had a couple of programs eliminated, but we are working with other agencies to ensure that those lost programs do not leave too large a hole and referring customers to those non-profits who provide similar programs. Probably the cut back which has caused the most complaints is the fact that we only have enough staff to clean our restrooms only once per day. For parks as busy as South Gate's this really isnt the level of service we would like to provide, but it is what works with our current budget.
South Gate Patch Latino: Are there programs within your department that you feel people should know about?
Paul Adams: All of them. Seriously, there are so many different programs, activities and opportunities that our department offers that everyone should be able to find something that interests. We publish our Quarterly Recreation Guide every three months and try to list everything that will be going on for that quarter. We do a pretty good job. The Recreation Guide and other program information is also available on the City website at www.sogate.org.
One thing that your readers may want to know is that one of our partners, Friends of South Gate Park, provides financial assistance for families who want to participate but can not afford it. They will usually only pay up to half of the cost to register for a program and applicants must be able to verify their financial need, but for families who are trying to make ends meet, just as we are, it is a great way to get a little help. A financial assistance application is available at any of our park facilities that take registrations.
South Gate Patch Latino: Does the Parks and Recreation department have any big plans for 2012?
Paul Adams: We are eagerly awaiting the completion of our Park Improvement project at South Gate Park and hope to have a rededication ceremony in February. We will soon begin work to replace the spa at South Gate pool and hope to have it back in operation early in the new year. Working with Amigos de los Rios, we will begin renovation projects at Hollydale Regional Park and Circle Park shortly after the first of the year. By the end of 2012, we hope to be well underway with construction of State Street Park along Southern Avenue between State and California and to have begun work on Area 4 of South Gate Park Improvements, continuing work down on the south end of the park.
One of our most exciting things to look forward to in 2012 is the opening of our new Fitness Center at South Gate Park. Using grant funds, the City has hired a new Fitness Coordinator and will be expanding our existing weight room with new equipment, more space and staff to provide training and instruction, changing our current weight room into a true fitness center. We hope to have the modifications and new equipment in before summer, so keep your ears open and come on down and join us in getting fit!