LAURINBURG — Bryan Graham has a lot of ideas about how to improve recreation in Scotland County.
But the new director of the county’s parks and recreation department said the best plan may be to get input from residents first.
“I encourage the citizens here in Scotland County to pick up the phone, shoot us an e-mail and even come up and visit to see what we can do to further assist them, their children and their families,” Graham said.
Graham began as the director of Scotland County Parks and Recreation on July 6. Before that, he served as the director of parks and recreation in Pembroke for eight years. Graham replaces interim director Al Blades who took over in April after Shannon Newton retired.
“The town of Pembroke was a new recreation department. So when I was hired, I was asked to begin all programming from the ground up,” he said. “I went to school for exercise science and from then started in parks and recreation in 2006 and have just progressed through the ranks. When this job became available it looked like a good opportunity and sparked my interest.”
Despite the Scotland County Parks and Recreation Department being much larger than the Pembroke operation, Graham said in general recreational programming is fairly constant no matter where you go.
“One area that’s missing is teenagers and adults,” he said. “Once kids turn 13 years old the programs are limited so we want to try and target that area and the adults — I’m a kid at heart. I like to play as well. We have a solid foundation in youth athletics and senior (55 and older) activities. With our football program we would like to reach out to Scotland High School and St. Andrews and try to incorporate our kids into their program — taking those small steps within the program we already have established to make them better.”
Graham said he would like to hear residents’ suggestions about new programs or events the department could explore. One recommendation that has been mentioned at Laurinburg City Council meetings is adding community swimming pools, something Graham said the department’s advisory board is looking into.
“We do have a master plan and we are trying to follow it, possibly a recreation center in the future with possible swimming avenues,” he said. “Those are things that are going to progress as times goes on. Right now, I want to concentrate on establishing myself as a leader within the department and fine tuning so we can progress and work together so that we could take on a project of that capacity.”
The parks and recreation department took an in-house assessment when Graham arrived to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the department and it’s staff members.
“It’s a small results based test and from that we’ve generated results for each employee to work towards,” he said. “I want to be present on social media on a daily basis. We just want to interact with our audience and have the citizens here in Scotland County work together and collaborate with us on the betterment of this community. We also want to make improvements on our website, right now the website is out-of-date.”
Graham said the parks and recreation staff have been very open to mixing things up — including long-time athletic supervisor and interim director Al Blades.
“The staff is open-minded to change and in ways we can improve, which is something I’m very excited about,” Graham said. “With a full staff it’s exciting to know there are professionals in place that can bring knowledge to the table and do an effective job to better this department. Although I’m the director, I’m their equal. That’s something I’m big on — unity for a common goal.”
Graham added that Blades, who has served with the county for 40 years, has been a tremendous help since he started.
“When you walk into an office and on the name board it says ‘The Legend,’ you know someone is valuable,” Graham said with a laugh. “Prior to working here I had a relationship with Al as a professional, so that was a big help. There was a comfort level there from the start and a mutual respect. He’s been a huge help, we’ve progressed tremendously in the past six weeks. It’s funny when I meet someone new they always tell me to be weary of Al — everyone always has a different opinion of him and some are very comical.”
Graham said he wants residents to know that they are an integral part of promoting a healthy lifestyle.
“We want there to be opportunities for everyone to get involved,” said Graham. “Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease are so common not just in this area but across the state. By incorporating everyone we can promote a healthy lifestyle that gets people off their couches, out of their houses and off social media to get out and enjoy life because we’re only here for a short period of time, why not enjoy it.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.