Meet the New Director of Columbus Parks

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Meet the New Director of Columbus Parks
Bernita Reese, the new director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. Photo courtesy of the City of Columbus

The new director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department knows the job involves more than managing local athletic fields and trails.

  • Bernita Reese believes it is about providing a full range of public services, from leisure activities to food distribution programs.

Why is this important: Reese, the first woman in city history to hold the post of director of parks, will oversee a large department with more than 1,700 employees and an annual budget of more than $ 50 million.

Go back: Reese has already spent three years as Deputy Director of Parks in Columbus.

  • Since March, the Atlanta native has headed the parks department in Huntsville, Alabama.

What they say : At a press conference, Mayor Andrew Ginther called Reese a “dynamic leader” who is an “accomplished public servant”.

  • Reese says she is delighted to be returning to Ohio.
  • “Under my leadership, it is essential that we focus on the mission and vision of serving all residents… and creating an inclusive culture.

The big picture: The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department includes more than 400 parks and 230 miles of regional trails, all of which have been valuable resources for residents during the height of last year’s pandemic closures.

  • The department also includes 28 community centers, half a dozen municipal golf courses, nearly a dozen swimming pools, and a handful of dog parks and skateparks.
  • Much of its focus is on sports leagues and community programs – in 2020, the department served nearly 500,000 free meals as part of its summer and after-school eating programs.

And after: Reese wants to focus on teen programming in 2022 and better marketing of the department’s offerings to the community.

  • The new director also aims to make local parks more accessible to every resident.
  • “It is imperative that we connect more neighborhoods to our trail systems, creating a 10-minute walk from neighborhood to park.”

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