What Tuscaloosa Can Learn from Asheville, Part 2: Parks and Recreation
This is the second part of a six-part series analyzing the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s benchmarking trip to Asheville, NC in September. About 80 business leaders and managers from the city of Tuscaloosa attended the event.
While Asheville, NC and Tuscaloosa are similar in many ways, their park systems are quite different.
The Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority maintains and operates 44 public parks in Tuscaloosa County, while the City of Asheville manages 74.
Their budgets are similar, $ 14 million for Tuscaloosa and $ 16 million for Asheville, but TCPARA executive director Gary Minor said they were doing more with less.
“They tried to do it in Asheville and they didn’t succeed,” Minor said. “It was their goal because it’s a good way to lead parts of government. We enjoyed hearing that.
Asheville Parks and Recreation Acting Director Peggy Rowe said one of their main goals is to make sure every child has access to a park.
“We want to make sure our people are fully aware of all the parks we have,” Rowe said. “People want to be outside, they need to feel like part of a community and these block parties, recreation centers and programs that we offer make it possible for people of all ages.”
Asheville Parks and Recreation maintains 860 acres of land, 11 community centers, a comprehensive athletic program, and a number of facilities that provide resources for activities such as pickleball, rock climbing, fitness classes and more Again.
But something else that attracts Asheville residents to their parks? Events.
“We have a lot of festivals that take place in the parks,” Rowe said. “Mountains attract people and the ability to find activities such as football, baseball, playing fields, it just keeps (the residents) engaged.”
By comparison, TCPARA operates nearly 2,000 acres of green space comprising 35 parks, seven activity centers, piers, an 18-hole golf course and a tennis court.
“In fact, we’re taking care of more land, more sports fields, more swimming facilities, more aquatic facilities, and we’re doing it for over $ 2 million less a year than them. (in Asheville), ”Minor said.
Asheville Parks and Recreation was hit hard in 2020, but Rowe said things were picking up.
“They do a really good job here in getting grants and looking for other forms of funding, which helps support their budget to a great extent,” Rowe said.