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Parks department adds coordinator
Zach Morris is the new programs coordinator for the Martinsville Parks & Recreation Department. Morris is responsible for implementing new leisure activities in the city. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Martinsville Parks & Recreation Department is starting to increase the number of leisure activities it sponsors now that it again has a full-time employee coordinating them.
Programs Coordinator Zach Morris said that since he started in September, he has focused on figuring out how programs and activities offered can best be marketed, as well as whether his ideas for new ones can be brought to fruition. He is taking the time he needs to make his work thorough.
“If I do something, I want to do it right,” Morris said.
City officials are impressed with Morris’ performance, said Public Works Director Jeff Joyce, who oversees the parks and recreation department.
He is “re-energizing the department and getting stuff going,” Joyce said. “He’s taken the ball and run with it. He’s got a lot of good ideas.”
Morris is the parks and rec department’s first full-time office employee — not counting Betsy Pace, who runs the city’s senior citizens center — since former director Gary Cody resigned in 2011.
The director’s position was eliminated due to budget cuts. However, Joyce said officials later realized that the department needed a
full-time worker to coordinate general recreation and athletic programs.
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Morris recalled that when he started working for the department, the city still had children’s football, baseball and basketball programs in place.
Other than athletics, though, “there really wasn’t any type of activities for kids or special events” being held, he said.
Such programs fell by the wayside after Cody left because nobody was available to coordinate them, officials have said.
Morris is working with Henry County Parks & Recreation to develop a “Short Sports” program for children ages 3-6. In weekly sessions, each focused on a different sport, children will learn the basic skills needed to play perhaps five or six sports, he said.
On July 16, a “Canoe Day” will be held at the city’s Beaver Creek Reservoir to teach youth basic canoeing skills, he said.
A “Kids Night Out” is being planned in December — the date has not yet been set — with the county department. A variety of games and crafts will be provided for children so they have somewhere to go while their parents shop for Christmas, Morris said.
The city department also is developing activities for adults and people of all ages.
For instance, a photography competition is planned. Morris said people will be able to take photos of “picturesque spots in the city.” The winning photo will be on the cover of the department’s activity guide next year, he said.
Catfish and bass fishing tournaments will be held throughout the summer at the 170-acre reservoir, which is Martinsville’s drinking water source.
The city allows people to fish and canoe at the man-made lake, but motorized boats are not allowed to protect the water from gasoline leaks. A boat dock and picnic shelter are on surrounding land. Plans are to eventually install playground equipment there, according to Morris.
He aims to promote the reservoir as a family-friendly recreational place, he said.
Morris said he has recruited several softball and baseball tournaments to Southside Park and aims to attract more.
Tournaments boost the local economy because participating athletes from out of town spend the night at area motels and eat in restaurants, he said.
He believes he can attract more tournaments, he said, because based on what visiting athletes have told him, “they really enjoy it here.”
Morris is a 2007 graduate of Magna Vista High School. He earned an associate degree from Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. His wife is Autumn Morris, marketing/communications manager for the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
Before starting his job with the city, Morris was an assistant baseball coach at PHCC. He also worked in the student activities department and taught an introduction to technology class there.
The parks and rec job naturally interested him due to his love for sports.
Morris participated in Henry County Parks & Recreation athletic programs while growing up. He played baseball, football and basketball in high school and then played baseball for PHCC.
Just as he is helping the city parks and rec department to grow, Morris said his new job is helping him mature and grow personally, such as by learning how to get organized and interact with different types of people.
“I’m not the boss” of parks and rec, Morris said, but as time goes by, “I’m being given more responsibility” for making decisions.
Yet “I’ve still got a whole lot to learn,” he said.
Anyone with ideas for new activities is welcome to call him at 403-5379.
Not all ideas can be achieved due to a lack of funding or other resources, but Morris said he will do his best.