“Flexibility is the key to stability.”
John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach
What a year we have had. We had to practice flexibility so many times. When we hit a road block, the Parks & Recreation staff found a way to work around it and still provide programs and services to the community. I have to say I never saw this coming. I don’t think any of us did. In our profession where we provide recreation spaces and programs for people to enjoy together with friends and family, these past many months were tough.
I am so proud of the Parks & Recreation & Tahoma Cemetery staff. After having to cancel almost everything we offer, they regrouped and got creative – taking on the challenge of doing things differently. Leslie Richards, Michelle Damron and Lori Schatz at the Harman Center have become very proficient at live streaming chat videos, online craft projects with our seniors, drive-through meet and greets and so many other creative ideas. Many seniors learned how to Zoom and use Facebook and YouTube, thanks to the Harman Center staff.
Recreation staff did creative things too. Mary Mendoza and Andrea Andrade, our Parks and Recreation front office staff, made sure information about changes and new programs were communicated to everyone. They answered many calls and emails about all of our changes. Kim Lopez and Sarah Lopez created activity bags for our kids that were in the afterschool program before the shutdown. They also created the “Bearable Adventure” program here small pictures of bears were placed in the parks for families to find. Tami Andringa, Recreation Supervisor, Bill Wells, Recreation Program Supervisor and their staff put on three “Drive-In Movies” at the Gateway Sports Complex. Tami also created the “Step Up and Park It” walking challenge during the summer. Anyone could sign up, log their steps each day and if they reached the set goals, were eligible for prizes.
The Recreation Staff also put on a “Hands Free Halloween” event in the parking lot at the Harman Center, which was an amazing success. So many of our families were able to enjoy some Halloween fun. We partnered with Gabby Wilson and Columbia Bank and hosted the drive-through “Letters to Santa” event with the lighted trucks in our parking lot at Public Works.
The Recreation staff also jumped in with park maintenance to work on projects. Juan Arias, Recreation activities Specialist, assisted with the replacement of the irrigation system for field 3 at Chesterley Park. Jason Zeller, Recreation Program Supervisor for Aquatics, also used his many talents and worked with Park Maintenance most of the summer. Since we were not able to open Franklin Pool, he was willing to assist with many park maintenance jobs – some of which he seemed to really enjoy, like driving a tractor. We were able to resurface 3 of the 12 tennis courts at Kissel Park this summer with the helping hands of quite a few Recreation staff.
Brad Schneider, Parks Operations Supervisor, and his maintenance staff also worked extra hard this past year. With everything being closed, people used the parks much more than usual – families using the parks to exercise and get outdoors and people getting takeout food to picnic in the park, especially at lunch time. As a result, we had a huge increase in garbage in the trash cans at the parks, which is a good thing. Many kids were riding bikes and people meeting and greeting with social distancing in the parks and small groups of people were exercising outdoors – even when it was really warm.
Ralph “Smokey” Pierson, Mike Byers and Heidi Tollackson work at Tahoma Cemetery and they also had to change and find ways to continue to provide cemetery services for our families. I know that the families that they served greatly appreciated their extra work.
John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, said it well, “Flexibility is the key to stability.” And I cannot thank the Yakima Parks & Recreation and Tahoma Cemetery staff enough for all their hard work and flexibility during some tough months. You all are the best.
If you have comments or questions regarding Yakima Parks & Recreation, please contact me at ken.wilkinson@YakimaWa.gov or you can call me 509 575 6020.
Ken Wilkinson, Parks and Recreation Manager