November 2019

A few years ago, shortly after I was hired to be the director for Crook County Parks & Recreation District, I was sitting in my office pondering in what direction I should steer this ship. I vividly remember asking myself a series of questions that went something like this: What are the worst rundown areas out in the parks that we should focus on updating? What feedback do we already have from the community that I can try and implement? If someone new moved to town, what would their general assumptions be of programs that a parks and recreation district should offer? Do we have adequate staff and resources in place to even add anything to what we are already doing? I started making a list of things that had been discussed for quite awhile, and others were new for us:

  • Resurface the tennis courts in Ochoco Creek Park.
  • Update the Skate Park.
  • Install a new irrigation system in Ochoco Creek Park so we don’t have to water manually during the day.
  • Improve out website, making it as easy as possible for people to access our services without having to come into our office during business hours.
  • Implement an online reservation system for our campgrounds.
  • Engage the athletic sporting world in Prineville and be an active partner.
  • Increase the quality of our sports fields.
  • Develop a high quality swim lesson program, similar to those in Bend, Redmond, and Madras, so that parents who take their kids to one of these other communities in the winter could count on more consistency in the lessons they received.

Summer of 2019 has been very fulfilling to me personally as I have been able to check many of these items off the list. Some of these things we are still working on refining. All of the major updates in Ochoco Creek Park are just about done. We now have a really cool new skate park, and the pickleball courts are nearly done. We also have a state of the art irrigation system that is automated and waters at night. No more getting drenched when you want to play in the park!
We have made quite a bit of progress engaging the sporting world and have seen major growth in the sporting world and have seen major growth in the sporting programs that we run. Although there is still plenty of room for improvement, we are continuing to learn from our mistakes and working hard to improve the overall quality of our programs. This summer was our first year running a youth soccer program which was formerly AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization). The leaders of this programs came to us and asked if we would be interested in taking over the administration of this program to ensure that Crook County dollars stay in Crook County. We said yes, and what a whirlwind it has been. We had a record-breaking number, over 520 participants, which makes this program the largest on in Crook County. I can’t gloat that it’s all been smooth sailing, but I can say that we made it through the season in one piece, and we have a long list of improvements that we will be implementing next season. If you participated in the program, please be sure to fill out our online survey. This is the best way for us to get feedback on areas that need improvement.
We also have the largest basketball program that we have ever had and we are now limited on how many players that we can accept based on the availability of gym space.
Our Flag Football and now Tackle Football programs continue to do well, and I think this was the smoothest season to date. We are also looking for ways to develop better training programs for our refs, coaches and other volunteers. We did a significant upgrade to our website a few years back, and now we are getting ready to do it again. Our goal is to make our website as user-friendly as possible. By next spring, you should be able to get to where you want to go on your phone with just a few clicks. Improving communication is also an area for us to work on. We realize that it is extremely frustrating to sign up for something and not have enough information to know what to do. It can be tricky at times for us to make sure we reached everyone, but we are looking into better ways of staying in touch with you!
We have put a tremendous amount of effort into our swim lesson programs and instructor training program. You need not worry about getting second-rate teaching here in Prineville. Even though we don’t have a modern pool, we still have a great swim lesson program in the summer months.
We have accomplished many of the things that were on the initial list, and now we are developing a new comprehensive master plan alongside the City of Prineville. This plan will set nre priorities and list out projects that we will focus on in the future. We look forward to this plan being complete in the Spring of 2020.

Duane Garner is the executive director of the Crook County Parks & Recreation District. He can be reached at 541-447-1209.