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A Mustang Evolution

Cooper Trammell, 8, Garrett Morris, 7, and Blake Ashley, 8, prepare to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens by play fighting with light sabers at the recent Pack the Park event hosted by the city’s Park and Recreation department. (Photographer/Maleyia Vaughn)

Cooper Trammell, 8, Garrett Morris, 7, and Blake Ashley, 8, prepare to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens by play fighting with light sabers at the recent Pack the Park event hosted by the city’s Park and Recreation department. (Photographer/Maleyia Vaughn)

Events, department going strong with community support

Mustang Parks and Recreation continues to grow and evolve throughout the years.

Parks and Recreation began in 1998 in a different location after city officials attended a conference in 1997 and thought it was something Mustang needed, Assistant Director Jean Heasley said. The baseball and softball fields opened in 2001 and the Mustang Aquatic Center and Town Center opened in 2002.

“I don’t think they ever could’ve foresaw how quickly Mustang would grow, which in turn impacted that,” said Justin Battles, assistant city manager and director of Parks and Recreation. “That was a facility that was built for around 10,000 people and we’re at about 19,000 now.

“The Growth is great. The people come here for the quality of life and our school system.”

Town Center started out as just a central meeting place then Parks and Recreation staff began hosting more events in 2004.

“It gave Mustang an identity,” Battles said. “And it just keeps evolving.”

Another step for Parks and Recreation was in 2006 when the decision was made to include anyone in the Mustang school district as a resident for Parks and Recreation memberships, rather than just people living in Mustang city limits.

A lot is under Parks and Recreation’s umbrella, including:
• The Senior Center,
• Fitness and Recreation center (gym, fitness classes, personal training, and climbing wall),
• Special events,
• Town Center care, upkeep and maintenance, besides mowing and physical work on grounds,
• Aquatic Center,
• Ballfields and different sports,
• Concessions,
• Dog Park,
• Mustang’s eight developed parks,
• Wildhorse Garden and Market, and
• Rentals for the pavilion, sports fields and rooms.

Scenes from this year’s Pack the Park

When the Senior Center began, there was a senior center coordinator, but it evolved into an adult program coordinator. Instead of just being in charge of the senior center, the adult program coordinator is in charge of the senior center, fitness classes, and extra special event-type classes like salsa dancing and wine and palette classes.

“We’ve been able to offer more to the citizens,” Heasley said. “All of our staff has really evolved. Part time people can come in and multitask and wear many hats, and that’s always evolving.”

When Parks and Recreation first moved to Town Center, there was just a director, Heasley as program director, a sports coordinator and a youth director. Parks and Recreation now have eight full-time employees, 15 part-time front line supervisors and 134 part-time/seasonal employees.

Parks and Recreation staff have also noticed how much program and events have evolved, Heasley said.

Heasley used Parks and Recreation Month as a way to celebrate the evolving staff and show her appreciation. Staff Appreciation Week was July 18-24 and included ‘Merica day, temporary tattoos day, Hawaiian day, Throwback Thursday, Fan favorite Friday, and an all-staff party on Sunday.

“They all work so hard and I appreciate what they do,” Heasley said.

Heasley also said almost all of the compliments Parks and Recreation receive is about the staff.
Spooktacular in October is Parks and Recreation’s biggest event every year.
“Spooktacular has a very long history,” Heasley said. “It was something created by citizens then it became an event that we took over as we moved here.”
Chuck Orifice from the Senior Center is who came up with the idea of the haunted house at Spooktacular and helped grow the event, Heasley said.

Spooktacular actually started inside, but moved outside three or four years ago because it became too big for Town Center.

All other aspects of Parks and Recreation have continued to grow and evolve, but it’s difficult to think of how every program has done so, Heasley said.

Wildhorse Park was named through a contest of the park planning commission that Cowetta Morrell won. It has grown to 158 acres, while the pool at the Aquatic Center holds 152,000 gallons of water.

“It’s all grown more than we ever could’ve imagined,” Heasley said.

Heasley continues to watch what other Parks and Recreation departments across the state and country are doing and work with Parks and Recreation staff to come up with new ideas that work best for Mustang.

Heasley said they like to look at what people like and what people are interested in, which is why they incorporated Pokémon GO lures into Pack the Park on July 25, and played Star Wars The Force Awakens.

There’s always more ideas and more plans in the back of Heasley’s brain, but she said there’s just never enough time for everything she wants to do. She said she is excited about the all-inclusive playground coming, and would like to work with Wildhorse Garden and Market for more scientific/educational classes for youth.

For more information on Parks and Recreation or to find out about upcoming events, visit www.cityofmustang.org/parksrec, or call 376-3411.

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