The Columbia County Recreation is very seldom heard from, sitting on the eastern side of the state. The department has been a leader in several areas over the past 30 years, sits quietly, not looking for recognition, but gladly sharing its ideas with others.
As 2002 draws to a close, so does the Columbia County Recreation Departments observance of 30 years of service to the citizens of Columbia County.
Known for its athletic power structure, the Recreation Department has developed several innovative programs. The B.A.T.S. Program (Basic Athletic Training and Skills) is for 5-year-old baseball, and G.Y.M.- R.A.T.S. (Getting Youth Motivated for Recreational Activity Training Sessions) was developed for 5-year-old basketball, to get the parents involved and to teach fundamentals.
The department was the leader in G.R.P.A. Soccer and G.R.P.A fastpitch softball at state competitions. Columbia County developed one of the first large athletic complexes in the state, consisting of 6 baseball fields, 5 softball fields, 5 soccer fields, 9 tennis courts, a walking track, an 18-hole disc golf course, and a gymnasium complex.
The department has also been a leader in other aspects, such as being one of the first departments to require all volunteer coaches to be N.Y.S.C.A. Certified. It also developed one of the first volunteer background checks systems for all coaches. The departments Athletic Policy and Procedures Manual for Volunteers and Staff, again one of the first, has been requested by many departments in Georgia and South Carolina.
Columbia Countys Recreation Department may be the quiet department, but it continually moves as a trend-setter within our state. Maintenance Supervisor Steve Jones has written two outstanding manuals on athletic facilities and parks, which have been requested throughout the Southeast. As director of the department, I have served on the G.R.P.A. Board of Trustees and in state offices (including president in 2001) for more than 10 years.
The department has taken on another challenge: having the County Commission adopt a policy that all administrative, programming and athletic Staff acquire at least 1.5 continuing education units (CEUs) and that all maintenance personal be required to acquire 1CEU per year. All administrative staff in a supervisory capacity must be certified within three years. All maintenance employees are required to obtain their Chemical and Pesticide License.
All department employees are first aid and CPR trained, and are also trained in use of the Automatic External Defibrillator. The department this year issued all the athletic and programming staff who work at athletic and special events lightning detectors for severe weather warning.
Columbia County also this year completed its first 10-year Recreational Master Plan and will soon purchase the land for a new 150-acre park.
Though is may not be widely known, the Columbia County Recreation & Leisure Services Department sits quietly as one of the states leaders. The department has been under the same direction for over 25 years, and has seen the county grow from 24,000 to over 89,000 in population during this time.
The county has passed three special purpose local option sales tax referendums during those years, with recreation being heavily involved in each. Columbia County can be called the good neighbor, as it is always willing to share information with other departments across the state.
All of this has been accomplished because of the outstanding support of its citizens, local elected officials and its state representatives. The Columbia County Recreation & Leisure Services Department will continue to show the way as a quiet leader into the future.
(Charlie Beale is Columbia County Recreation director.)
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