Roanoke City's Parks department seeks more money for aging facilities

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBj7) - Roanoke's Parks and Recreation department says they are still working on climbing their way out of the recession. And, with trends showing millennials moving to places with recreation opportunities, the department is looking to do more.

Dog dad Jason Lisk is a regular to the Highland Park dog park in old Southwest.

"I try to get them out here once a week," Lisk said of his two dogs, Max and Nash.

But it's not just Max and Nash who enjoy a little time outside the house.

"I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway," Lisk said. "There's a trail back there that connects to the chestnut ridge trail and I'm usually on that once or twice a week if I can."

Parks and Recreation Department director Michael Clark said he knows these parks are increasingly important to the people looking to move here.

"The trend now is talent is going to where they want to live and they're looking at how they recreate and their quality of life," Clark said. "So businesses are following talent as opposed to the other way around."

But he feels the department has been struggling to do its best since the Recession.

"Our department took it on the chin that year," he said, referring to 2008.

After losing 22 percent of the budget and 23 employees Clark said some projects have fallen by the wayside.

"Going into any one of our facilities is like taking a step back in time."

And he knows folks like Lisk are always looking for more.

"I'd love to see more river access in the city," Lisk said.

That's why Clark went before City Council this week presenting a new Master Plan, which asks for more dedicated money and staffing to maintain and create new park facilities.

"In terms of park acres and trails we are leading the pack," Clark said. "...Where we're lagging is in the money we allocate to take care of those resources."

He wants to make sure Roanoke City can play as hard as his department is willing to work.

"Hopefully this road map will be what it takes to get us there."

City Council will vote whether to adopt this Master Plan early next year.
If they approve the dedicated funding and more staff, the department wants to do more.

That includes improving facilities like pools, updating indoor spaces and fully connecting the regional trail system.