The Johnston County Visitors Bureau recently spent $50,000 on a comprehensive plan to guide the development of parks and recreation services and facilities in the county.
Last Monday, the agency asked Johnston County Commissioners to put the master plan into action.
“I’m going to plead with you as hard as I possibly can: Do not allow this plan sit on someone’s desk,” said Jim Godfrey, head of the Johnston County Sports Council, which is part of the Visitors Bureau.
The Sports Council hired SageDesign about a year ago to conduct the research, and the company delivered its findings in a March presentation at Johnston Community College. The report weighs in at 190 pages, and Godfrey said it contains a tremendous amount of recommendations.
The most urgent need, Godfrey said, is for Johnston to hire a countywide director of parks and recreation. The goal would not be to gobble up those departments that already exist in the towns, he said, but to help them work better together.
“We do have to have someone, on a county level, to coordinate this plan and see that it is accomplished,” Godfrey said.
The county’s new fiscal year begins July 1, and Godfrey acknowledged that it would be unrealistic for Johnston to create a new position so late in the budget process. Instead, he said the county should budget for the new job starting next summer.
The new director would also help create better parks and recreation opportunities in the Cleveland community, Godfrey said. That area lacks adequate facilities because it has no municipal government to provide them, he said.
Improving parks and recreation services would help Johnston attract new residents and businesses, said Godfrey, who also serves as president of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce. When families are looking to move, Godfrey said, the moms ask the chamber two questions: Where will my kids go to school, and where can they go to play? Johnston already has great schools, he said, but the recreation services need improvement.
The plan could also boost Johnston’s economy by bringing in tournaments for youth sports such as baseball, softball and soccer, Godfrey said. Those types of events are great, he said, because they bring in lots of dollars without too much investment.
“They come, they eat, they sleep in our hotels, and they go home,” he said. “We don’t have to build schools for them; we don’t have to build infrastructure for them. They just come here and spend their money.”
Here are other items from the May County Commissioners meeting:
Juvenile Crime Prevention Council: The board approved JCPC’s budget for next fiscal year, which includes $204,261 in state funds. Johnston agreed to contribute $39,000 to hire an instructor for the structured day program, which helps students stay out of trouble while they are suspended from school.
Bulk water purchase agreements: Johnston will extend by five years its contracts with the Northwestern Wayne, Southwestern Wayne and Fork Township sanitary districts. The agreement allows Johnston to purchase water from May through October, and the other districts get to buy Johnston’s water from November to April.