Dear Santa: Gifts for local rec programs

chnsports@newsobserver.comDecember 17, 2013 

As local recreation administrators in Chapel Hill and Carrboro mull over their letters to Santa Claus, their wish lists will no doubt include everything from bats and balls to coaches and courts, but there’s one thing that’s likely on nobody’s gift list: rain.

“Jolly old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way!

“Don’t you tell a single soul, what I’m going to say…”

After a year that saw recreation agencies just trying to stay afloat in the wake of rains of near-apocalyptic proportions, it’s more likely the seven plagues of Egypt would appear on Christmas lists than any more rain.

Rains damaged fields and playground surfaces in Carrboro and took their toll from the Umstead Park playground to the Bolin Creek Greenway in Chapel Hill, where some 14 trees had to be removed. So here’s to “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” or a “Blue Christmas,” or even a paisley Christmas, as long as it’s not a rainy new year.

“We are in pretty good shape as far as having what we need to continue to provide great services to our patrons,” said Carrboro Recreation and Parks recreation supervisor Charles Harrington. “However, if Santa would be kind enough to bring us some good weather for our outdoor activities come spring, then that would be appreciated.”

“Christmas Eve is coming soon; now you dear old man,

“Whisper what you’ll bring to me; tell me if you can.”

Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation director Butch Kisiah said a little help with flood repairs from Kris Kringle might be in order.

“Our new playground at Umstead Park would be a good wish,” he said.

With the official ribbon-cutting opening the new playing fields at Cedar Falls Park on Weaver Dairy Road in Chapel Hill scheduled for today, Chapel Hill parks and recreation athletics supervisor Bernard Leach said the next phase of improvement at that same park is also on his agency’s Christmas wish list.

“The bathrooms will go in at Cedar Falls Park this coming year, but they haven’t started work on those,” Leach said.

Kisiah agreed: “Yes, rest rooms at Cedar Falls and a new paved parking lot to go along with it.”

Having ushered in much-needed improvements and presided over numerous new recreation resources in Chapel Hill, Kisiah will retire effective Dec. 31 after 30 years of service in recreation, which gives him an entirely new perspective on this year’s Christmas wish list.

“Let’s just say I’d wish for a lower golf handicap. I don’t even want to put a number to it,” he said, laughing, though he denied the need for rocking chairs under the tree this season. “No, I don’t see that in my future, because my wife’s got a 40-page ‘honey-do’ list waiting for me.”

“Johnny wants a pair of skates, Suzy wants a sled…”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, Jim Orr will take over as interim director of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation. Orr has served as Assistant Director for Operations, and he has a long history of service in recreation, having served as the recreation and parks director for Black Mountain, and he has held leadership parks and recreation positions in Asheville.

“My wish is to land on my feet without falling over in any direction,” Orr joked.

Orr has already demonstrated creative and collaborative leadership in the Town’s Wellness@Work Program, as well as helping lead the current community youth initiative, Chapel Hill 4 YOUth.

Orr offered up one more notion for Santa’s sleigh.

“My wish list would be to be able to present to the Town Council and have received in a good way the results of our youth initiative,” he said. “It’s a process we’ve used to identify services and facilities used by youth aged 12-18 in the community. It’s a report our staff will compile from various public meetings and collaboration with other departments in the town.”

“The draft will go to the Town Manager at the end of the month,” Orr added, “and he’ll present it to the Council at their retreat which is, I believe, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.”

“Billy wants a picture book, yellow, blue, and red…”

At the Chapel Hill / Carrboro YMCA at 980 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill, Senior Membership and Marketing Director Greg Lee said he hoped St. Nicholas might help steer the study into reallocation of resources at the Chapel Hill branch.

“I’d like to ask for a really good re-design of our space here at the Chapel Hill branch so that we can provide our members more space to exercise and be healthy,” he said.

Having decided against the removal of two existing racquetball courts at the facility, the branch must look of other ways to meet the growing demands for exercise space.

“We have a facilities committee that’s prepared to meet on this,” Lee said, “and they’ve just started their meetings. We’re hoping to have something ready to start working on this over coming year: 2014. It may involve moving around some of the upstairs space, but we don’t have details.”

“…Now then, I will tell to you, what to give the rest…”

Agencies also had some ideas for stocking stuffers they added to their letters to the North Pole.

“I’d wish for more donations for the YMCA’s annual campaign,” Lee said, “so that we can make sure kids get to go to camp or take swim lessons and be a part of the Y.”

“New wellness equipment is another idea, like yoga mats, exercise bands, dumbbells, and exercise balls: things like that would be great gifts here at the YMCA,” Lee added, “and volunteer coaches always make great stocking-stuffers.

“We need more volunteers, especially for athletics and Special Olympics,” Kisiah echoed.

“Oh, and if Santa would drop off another two-court basketball complex anywhere in Chapel Hill, that would be great too,” Leach added.

“Carrboro is also in need of volunteers for various programs,” Harrington said, “including spring baseball and girls’ volleyball.

Kisiah was the lone administrator, after a year spent splashing around repairs and reparations, who uttered a wish for water.

“I think it would be really cool to have a splash pool — a water playground at the concrete pad at the Chapel Hill Community Center,” he said. “It’s just outside the doors from the indoor pool, and it’s a huge concrete pad just sitting there.”

“...Choose for me old Santa Claus, you will know the best.”

Happy Holidays, and here’s wishing everyone plenty of health, happiness, and workout clothes that make for a perfect “fit” in the coming year.

Young: 919-932-8743

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