Garner’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department has a new face serving as parks manager and coordinating outdoor education programming.
Katie Lockhart will oversee White Deer Park, environmental education programs, park-based events such as Trick or Treat the Trails and the Spring Eggstravaganza and departmental marketing efforts. The former Special Olympics of North Carolina employee started about two weeks ago in the position vacated by Stephanie Shaffer.
Lockhart said she has mostly been learning the lay of the land in the short time since she got started. Butshe hopes to broaden the appeal of outdoor programming.
“We have a really strong focus on preschool- and school-aged children. I’d love to offer more programming to adults and seniors,” Lockhart said. “I see opportunity for crossover with some of the senior center activity. I’m not sure what exactly would work for adults, maybe outdoor and adventure programming.”
Lockhart said such efforts would largely be trial and error.
Lockhart, a North Wilksboro native, went to North Carolina State University where she majored in parks, recreation and tourism management. She took her concentration in sports management and worked for the Town of Cary on their athletics programming while still in school. Her first full-time job came with the City of Asheboro, where she worked on youth programming.
With an eye on eventually working into a management position, she earned a masters in business administration at Western Carolina, with a focus on facilities and events.
She worked for just less than three years as volunteers and families director for the Special Olympics of North Carolina. She recruited volunteers and also managed the intern program.
“It was great. I got a lot of event experience, which was great as it’s something I really enjoy doing,” Lockhart said. “Plus, working with Special Olympics athletes is pretty much the best thing you can do with your time.”
She cited the quality of Garner’s department as well as White Deer Park and the Nature Center as reasons for coming to Garner. She also credited the support the town gives its employees and the support of citizens for the programs (noting heavy voter support for the parks and recreation component in the March 13 bond referendum).
Parks and recreation assistant director Rob Smith said Lockhart brings a good skill-set stemming from coordinating a variety of activities in the past.
“What you are going to see is a valuing of White Deer Park as one of the premiere parks in the area, and a valuing of the relationship we have in the community and with nature,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, former part-time Parks and Recreation staff member Kendrick Mayes was promoted to full-time marketing and events coordinator, a move effective two weeks before Lockhart started.
Mayes will take charge in of promoting activities such as the Halloween and Easter events, the Groundhog Day event and the Friday night movies at Lake Benson Park in town and external media and social media outlets.
“We have that newness and that excitement,” Lockhart said. We are not going to make changes for the sake of making changes, but bring in some new and exciting ideas.”