February 6, 2014

Werner Braun: Rec department is vital to our community

It starts in the parks.

That’s a pretty catchy statement, and it’s one that definitely set the tone for a presentation that our Carpet Capital Rotary Club members heard recently. That’s when Dalton Parks and Recreation Director (DPRD) Steve Card shared with us many of the good things that are going on at the DPRD.

I must say that I, along with everyone else in attendance, was quite impressed.

The presentation Steve showed us started out with a pretty straightforward call to action. It states, “Dalton Parks and Recreation Does.” The final slide repeats the question, and then asks, “Do You?”

Sometimes we all need to be called to action, not only just to get ourselves in gear, but also to support our family members in doing those things that result in a better quality of life.

So many good things really do “start in the parks.” Good things like year-round youth athletics, as the DPRD offers such sports as baseball, softball, football, cheerleading, basketball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, tennis, golf and lacrosse for our youngest citizens. For adult recreational athletes, the DPRD fields basketball, flag football, soccer, kickball and volleyball teams.

Daily activities are planned for seniors year-round, and year-round special activities for youth and adults are offered, including three local and five state Special Olympics competitions just this past year.

Golfers can enjoy affordable greens fees at Nob North Golf Course, which has been voted one of the “Best Places to Play” by Golf Digest.

And the DPRD’s leisure facilities, such as the Mack Gaston Community Center, provide community residents with basketball courts, an indoor walking track, a state-of-the-art weight room, a playground and an aerobic room. This relatively new center shines as an example of the remarkable community collaboration between WIC, the Whitfield County Health Department, the Dalton-Whitfield Library, Creative Arts Guild and others.

The DPRD program is growing and thriving in ways that do my heart good.

For example, within the past five years, the DPRD has had an economic impact of more than $4.5 million per year on our community’s hotels, businesses, restaurants and gas stations. But in last two years, 2012 and 2013, that economic impact has risen to $7 million and $8 million respectively. And that’s good for all concerned.

But it’s the impact on our own citizens that seems to count the most. The DPRD maintains and supports the following:

• 13 parks, with six outdoor walking tracks and trails

• 30 athletic fields

• 9 artificial turf fields

• 24 tennis courts

• 10 playgrounds

• Swimming pool

• Disc golf course

• Dog park

• Skate park

• Fishing opportunities

• School partnerships

The DPRD also hosts special events, like the Fourth of July extravaganza, a fall carnival, fishing derbies, equestrian camps, outdoor adventure camps, afterschool and summer kids’ programs, swim lessons, trail runs and more.

There seems to be something for everyone.

In addition to its mission statement, in which the DPRD pledges to enrich the quality of life for the citizens it serves by providing safe and accessible recreational opportunities and facilities, the DPRD seeks to be a “leader in community wellness,” a “leader in economic impact” and a “leader in quality of life.”

As someone who’s spent his whole life in business, I must say that I see, as do others like me, the value of a community organization that works so seamlessly with other agencies and organizations to enhance the quality of life for all of its residents.

From a business perspective, the DPRD department is one of the most valuable assets in our region. It’s an essential component of the “three-legged stool” of environmental responsibility, economic responsibility and social responsibility.

They have, they do and they will continue to do an incredible job, especially on the social responsibility front, by providing low-cost, high-quality programming, lovely parks and state-of-the-arts facilities for the good of all of us, from those newly out of the cradle to our most senior citizens. And it’s fair to say that Dalton is very grateful.

Keep up the good work, DPRD.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.

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