New Recreation Director’s analytical approach and Dog Park announced to committee

New Recreation Director Michael King (top left) during his first Recreation Committee meeting.

Newly-hired Recreation Director Michael King was in attendance at last week’s meeting of Ascension’s Council Recreation Committee.  A milestone, indeed, though for some it may have been overshadowed by the progress made toward the parish’s first Dog Park.

The park, discussed for years, will utilize two acres owned by the parish on Germany Road as part of an agreement with Leadership Ascension.  Ascension Chamber of Commerce established the Leadership Ascension Foundation in 1996 as a vehicle which “organizes present and future leaders to promote philanthropy in our community…Over 800 individuals ranging from business owners to government officials have completed Leadership since its inception.”

Artist’s rendering of dog park.

The group has cleared the unused two acres, having raised over $12,000 from local residents and businesses.  Recreation Committee voted to kick in an additional $35,000 to facilitate the park from the existing Recreation Budget which includes funding for Park Improvements.  The appropriation will have to be approved by the full council.

No opening date for the park has been established.

Without a dedicated funding source, parish recreation has struggled to keep pace with ever-increasing demand by its growing population.  The hiring of Michael King denotes how seriously the current administration, joining multiple ardent council members, is approaching recreation improvements.

Recreation Director King boasts professional credentials never before sought by the parish.  Step 2 in his 90-day Plan focuses upon funding, partly through Public Private Partnership since it is well nigh impossible that voters will ever pass a recreation tax.  Better Recreation NOW!, a 5-mill property tax, was soundly defeated (68%-32%) on November 4, 2014.

Director King stressed the vital importance of “research, inventory, policy, and procedures” which will be undertaken in his first 30 days on the job, relying heavily upon current personnel.  Gathering information and assessing the Council’s will, which should reflect that of constituencies, transitioning to funding possibilities over the next 30 days, then finding out what the citizens of Ascension desire from Day 61-90.

It is an analytical approach, unfamiliar in Ascension, that Michael King has employed throughout his career (most recently with BREC where he started in 2016).  “Performance Metrics” and “Key Performance Indicators”…King’s approach is unlike anything Ascension Recreation Department has ever implemented.

“Recreation is not just sports,” he assured the committee.  “(But also) providing opportunities for underserved populations.”

Earning his undergraduate degree from Coastal Carolina University (“Go Chanticleers”), King’s Masters Degree is in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management from North Carolina State.  His advanced degree “focused on people with disabilities” and King landed his “dream job at the time” as Sports Director with Special Olympics North Carolina.  BREC presented new challenges for King whose primary responsibility was to identify “play deserts (and) provide opportunity where there hadn’t been any.”

Ascension Parish is a blank canvas compared to East Baton Rouge where he operated two “mobile recreation units.”  Can Ascension’s Recreation Department afford such luxuries?  King, who seems to bring big ideas, has his work cut out for him.

In other business the parish has entered a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Ascension Parish School Board for reciprocal use of the other’s facilities “when needed, and if available.”