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Athens Recreation Advisory Board seeks stability, new members

The Athens Recreation Advisory Board, which is a committee that advises city administration in matters relating to the recreational use of any land or buildings owned by the city, hopes to solidify a set Board and reduce the turnover of members. 

Mayor Steve Patterson is responsible for recommending members to be appointed to the committee and presenting the individuals to the city council for a vote. The seven appointed members serve a three-year term and receive no compensation for their service. 

However, due to vacancies on the Board, an opportunity for community members who are interested in serving can submit an application that includes their interest in the position. The current members would review the applications and present their thoughts to the chair of the Board, Daniel Brown. 

City Council’s representative of the Board, Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, said it has had an exceptional turnover rate in the last few years. 

“Right now we only have one person on the Board who has served more than six months,” Swank said. “Hopefully we could get a Board that we can stay consistent for a couple or three years and build some momentum.”

As the Board’s council representative, Swank serves as a liaison between the two. Prior to serving on council, Swank was a board member for several years and was also its chair. 

Swank explained how the board’s members are supposed to familiarize themselves with the community’s recreational needs and conduct research on ways of improvement. However, the board strictly serves as advisers, not decision-makers, Swank said. 

“(The Board is) supposed to be representing the citizens of Athens but that doesn't necessarily mean that's going to become the law of the land,” Swank said. 

One of the most recently appointed Board members, Anne L’Heureux, who is also an Athens Middle School Physical Education teacher, expressed enthusiasm to begin working within the Board because it will provide an opportunity to serve as a voice for community members. 

“I see myself as a connector to people and organizations that will be helpful in accomplishing the goals of the Board,” L’Heureux wrote in an email. “This area is all about helping one another, we want good experiences for our kids and for ourselves and I hope to be able to use the relationships I have made over the years to build those bridges.”

Another recently appointed member, Megan Russell, an Ohio University English instructor, wants to bring unique viewpoints that can serve as an inclusive voice in future projects. 

“Recreation spaces, and all spaces in Athens for that matter, should be for everyone regardless of their identity,” Russell wrote in an email.

Similarly, L’Heureux wants the Board to continue actively serving the diverse Athens community and is confident the board will be able to be representative of all community members. 

“Representation matters and I see the Board actively sourcing people to represent the various sides of the Athens Community,” L’Heureux wrote in an email. “While the members are well rounded in their backgrounds, they are also experts in specific fields, this should help in making future plans for our community to benefit our lifelong Athenians and University members.”

Patterson said there are many opportunities for students associated with the board, and there are a number of jobs already posted on the city’s employment page that may interest students. 

However, Russell said many students may not be familiar with how to get involved with the Board and understands it can be difficult to connect local Athens matters to university students. 

“In my experience, OU students aren't always aware of the opportunities available beyond campus,” Russell wrote in an email. “I hope that myself and the other board members with ties to the University can continue to include the student population in our various projects and plans.”

One issue Swank wants to see the Board address is a partnership with the Athens City School District. Swank said he believes it’s important to support the strengthening of youth and high school sports. 

Currently, Patterson said the Board is working toward implementing more soccer spaces, restroom facilities, and new tennis and pickleball courts. Patterson also said there should be new programming through the community center supported by the Board.


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