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Keeping the ball rolling: Municipal recreation facilities serve public needs

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Runners made their way into Illinois across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge during the Oct. 1, 2005, during the annual 5K Bridge Run.
(Don Frazier)
Dan Muser has seen quite a bit of growth in his 16 years as the director of the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department.

New facilities, such as the Shawnee Park Sports Complex and Osage Community Centre, have paved the way for new programs.

"There's not too many weekends when we don't have an event or someone renting one of our facilities," said Muser, who has been with the department for 20 years.

"I think we do well for a city of our size. We're certainly right up there with cities our size and a little bigger."

The department's growth in facilities and offerings can be traced primarily to two factors, Muser noted: community support and department staff.

Muser has 43 full-time employees in the department.

"That's part of the reason our department has progressed as it has," Muser said. "They take pride in what they're doing. It makes all the difference in the world."

Community organizations have shown their pride in Cape Girardeau by working the department on several projects.

Muser can list several organizations that have been involved with projects, whether it's facility improvements, sponsorship and getting new activities off the ground.

When the Breakfast Optimist Club disbanded, for example, and closed out its treasury with an $8,000 donation to the Cape Parks Foundation, which had been established 12 years ago to help with funding of Shawnee and Osage.

"We've had very good support from the community with donations," Muser said. "We've really cultivated that. We've had to because we don't have the funding to do all this stuff. Sponsorship is a big thing."

Individuals have shown their support at events such as Friends of the Park Day, an annual event that draws hundreds of people to help spruce up the parks, and last year's inaugural spaghetti dinner, which served as a fund-raiser for the foundation.

The department's programs also have found an audience.

"I think people are more concerned with wanting to be physically active and healthy," Muser said. "That certainly plays a part."

Muser has seen the rise of soccer in his time at the department and the surprising success of the summer theatre.

"It started as an idea someone on the staff had," Muser said. "I wasn't sure how it would go, but we had a lot of participation and enthusiasm.

"When I first came here, the recreation program was more of a baby-sitting program," Muser added. "We have more structure to our events now. That has been the biggest change over the years. When kids' parents sign up for things, they're getting something out of it and not just baby-sitting."

Muser said the department has been able to count on a friend in city hall in Mayor Jay Knudtson, a former collegiate athlete.

"He was the chairman of the Park Board for eight years, so I worked with Jay before he became mayor," Muser said. "He worked diligently with both the Osage and Shawnee projects. He has interests in that area."


Marv Blevins, who is closing in on four years as the city's director of parks and recreation, has watched the evolution of the city's soccer complex from idea to near completion in the last two years.

"They started playing on it last fall," Blevins said. "We started work on it two years ago. It's starting to take shape, and there's still several more years but we'll add things as the money becomes available."

A concession stand is being completed this year, said Blevins.

The Perryville department employs nine full-time people. The department's most popular offerings include Senior Olympics, a craft show, a fun-and-fitness fair and the Heartland Hoopfest. The hoopfest, an all-day basketball event that takes place in December, will be played for the third time this December.

Those events allow the department to show off the Perry Park Center, which will be 7 years old in May.

The park center includes a gym, a pool and racquetball courts.

Scott City

Phyllis Krump, who has been director with Scott City's Parks and Recreation Department for 15 years, said the highlight of the calendar there is the SummerFest, this year scheduled for Father's Day weekend in June.

The department also organizes the Randy Leinart Music Festival in early June.

Scott City has three full-time employees and adds up to 15 people for the summer to work as lifeguards and concessions workers.

In addition to the pool and swimming team, Scott City organizes the alumni basketball game, an Easter egg hunt, three parades, women's basketball, youth basketball and a Hot Shot contest.


Shane West Anderson has been the only director the Jackson Parks and Recreation Department has ever had, occupying the post since it was created in 1998.

Before then, the city offered only girls softball and youth baseball.

The department now offers youth soccer, men's softball, a fishing clinic, a tennis tournament and more.

The Homecomers event in late July is an annual highlight.

"I'm proud that it has grown as it has," Anderson said. "We look for programs that we can reproduce annually."

Anderson, the department's only full-time employee, works with the park board to develop programs.

Recent additions include the barbecue cook-off in October and a square-foot gardening club for children 8 to 10 that runs from April to August.

Among the most popular are the monthly senior socials.


335-6611, ext. 174

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