Last Updated: 2011-12-06

The Citizens' E-Update November 2011Mayor Dwight C.JonesVol. 4 No. 1

In this Issue

Merrifield assumes department leadership

Dr. Merrifield

Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, Ed.D., took over the reins of the department on May 23. He previously served as the administrative executive officer and director of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, where he is credited with coordinating the commission's first Comprehensive Strategic Program Business Plan. He also completed the first Comprehensive Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan for the City of El Paso, TX, parks and recreation, where he served as director. His other experiences include serving as assistant superintendent for administration for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and as administrator for Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department in Bloomington, IN.

Merrifield holds a bachelor's and a master's in recreation and park administration, as well as a doctorate in adult education from Indiana University. He is a member of both the National Recreation and Park Association and the National Urban Park and Recreation Alliance.

His initial efforts in Richmond will be toward enhancing the department's advisory board, training staff for professional accreditation, building the department's relationship with the Enrichmond foundation, merging art programs with the department's Before and After School curriculum, and expanding programs and activities for teens.

The Richmond department serves an urban population of more than 200,000 with 18 community centers and more than 2,800 acres of park property, including the nationally recognized James River Park System, known for its biking and hiking trails and its urban whitewater rafting.

Department expands free meals with Walmart grant, wins national USDA recognition

A $40,000 grant from Walmart and the National Recreation and Park Association has allowed the department to expand and enhance its free summer meals program for children program and its child and adult care food programs. The department, which has served free food through its programs since 1983, was among 30 agencies selected nationwide to receive a total of $2.1 million donated by the Walmart Foundation. In addition, the department received one of seven national awards given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) in recognition of excellence for efforts to help reduce hunger among children during the summer months. "Helping children and families is certainly a key objective of our department, and we are thrilled to be a part of this national effort to combat hunger and to receive this recognition for our efforts," said Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, Ed.D, director of Richmond's Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. "With this generous support, we hope to provide an additional 50,000 free healthy meals and snacks this summer." The Walmart grant is part of a $25 million initiative aimed at filling the gaps in food service created when schools close for summer. It is expected to reach more than 110,000 middle and high school students nationwide. "Kids should have every opportunity to grow into successful adults, and we're doing our part to make sure that's the case this summer," commented Walmart Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Leslie Dach. The department's summer food service program is funded by the USDA and administered by the Virginia Department of Health. "Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process," noted Health Department Director Dr. Donald R. Stern. "Lack of nutritional meals during the summer may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again," he said. The department serves meals and snacks at community centers and other sites throughout Richmond and the surrounding area. No advance registration is required to walk in and receive a free meal or snack, and any organization that provides organized programs for youth can participate as a site in the department's program.

CarMax continues support of youth basketball

CarMax Ribbon cutting Cutting the ribbon on the new basketball court are (l-r) Department Director Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, Ed.D.; Richmond Chief of Staff Suzette Denslow; CarMax League Director Tim Weathers; Enrichmond Executive Director John Sydnor; CarMax President and CEO Tom Folliard, Clovia Lawrence of Radio One; Richmond Police Lt. Charles Sipple; CarMax Foundation President Lynn Mussatt; Richmond Councilman Chris Hilbert; and the project's contractor Charlie Boyd.

The CarMax Foundation awarded a grant of $155,000 to the Enrichmond foundation to fund the construction of a new basketball court at Pine Camp, restoration of an existing building for use as a concession facility, and expansion of the department's CarMax Basketball League to include more Richmond youth and a new wheelchair league. Also, CarMax sponsored a culminating banquet at the Richmond Marriott with more than 50 players and parents in attendance. Dr. Bias was the guest speaker. This is the fifth year that CarMax has supported youth basketball in the city. Since 2007, the CarMax Foundation has given more than $500,000 to restore and expand the department's basketball courts at Pine Camp and fund league play for hundreds of Richmond youth between the ages of 10 and 17.

After School Program to engage children with cultural arts

Pottery made by children in the After School program These clever pieces were created by children in the After School Program as part of the department's effort to exposure youth to the arts.

Parents looking for a safe and affordable place for their children after school can find it with the department's After School Program. The department offers it at 20 elementary schools, and each site is certified by the Virginia Department of Social Services and maintains a ratio of at least 15 students to one instructor. Enrollment for one child is only $50 per semester. The price goes down to $40 for the second child and $30 for the third. In addition, dinner or a healthy snack is included at no extra charge through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Activities include health, fitness, life skills and character building programs, as well as assistance with homework and recreational fun. This year, the department is adding a variety of cultural arts experiences to engage children and broaden their experiences. These will include programs in art, dance, music and theater. For more information on the program, or to enroll your child, call 646-6934.

Walton producing new tennis "stars" at Battery Park

Tennis with Guy Walton Guy Walton (center facing camera) gives a few pointers to a group of young tennis players at Battery Park.

Judging by the results, Guy Walton has been doing a great job of teaching youth tennis for the department at the Battery Park tennis courts. Walton, who is the head tennis coach at Virginia Union University, has been teaching tennis for the department for 10 years. This year he took a team of 13- and 14-year-old tennis players to the Mid-Atlantic zone competition in Cary, NC, where they won the championship match. In addition, for the first time a group of 15- to 17-year-old players qualified to compete in the U.S. Tennis Association's district competion at Old Dominion University where they placed third. Walton's students also were the summer league champions this year in 18 and under advanced USTA Junior Team Tennis. Congratulations to Walton and the young tennis stars at Battery Park.

Festival of the Arts programs break attendance records

This summer marked the 55th season for the department's annual Festival of the Arts. The annual summertime festival takes place at Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park and brings a wide variety of entertaining cultural arts performances to the public for free. The season was phenomenal with new attendance records set at the Latin Jazz Festival, the theatrical production of Hairspray, and the Gospel Festival. This year, the festival featured 30 evenings of outdoor family entertainment. In addition to a wide variety of music, the festival featured dance, movies, and theater, as well as an entire lineup of morning and afternoon entertainment for young audiences on the Ha'Penny Stage, which sits adjacent to the Dell. Every year, families are encouraged to bring a blanket and a picnic to enjoy in the park with the festival's outdoor performances at the Dell's ampitheater. The Festival of the Arts is produced by the department's Cultural Arts Division.

Employees present at VRPS conference

Two groups of employees from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities were among the presenters at the Virginia Recreation and Park Society's annual conference held Sept. 17 - 20 in Norfolk, VA. Recreation Instructor Sherita Johnson and Recreation Program Supervisor Sureatha McGhee presented a one-hour session on "Training Your C.I.T. Counselors." The seminar highlighted the department's success in training and employing teens to work in its community centers during the summer months. A component of the Mayor's Youth Academy, the C.I.T. (Counselors in Training) program employed 85 Richmond teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 17 this summer. The program was started in 2003 and has trained and or employed more than 600 teens. In addition, Johnson, McGhee and Recreation Center Supervisors Lillie Crook and Glynes Cheatham presented a two-hour session titled "Blueprint to a Successful Summer Camp." Summer camp programs are an integral component of any recreation department or camp organization, and this interactive session gave conference attendees the curriculum to plan and implement a successful camp program for youth ages 6 to 12. Attendees also had the opportunity to experience some fun activities during a day in the life of a camper. Approximately 748 delegates from across the commonwealth attended the annual conference, which aims to unite professionals in the field of recreation, parks and leisure services and provide an opportunity to learn best practices in the profession.

James River Park System named among Richmond's Best

Richmond's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities scored big again this year in Richmond magazine's annual reader survey of the Best & Worst. The department's James River Park System won three top spots on the magazine's Best lists, and the park system's manager, Ralph White, was voted Best Preservationist. The park's Buttermilk Trail was selected by the magazine's readers for two top spots: Best Running Trail and Best Biking Trail. In addition, readers selected the park's Belle Isle as the Best Urban Hiking Spot. The park system's excellent trails can largely be attributed to Trail Manager Nathan Burrell and the hundreds of park volunteers who have given thousands of backbreaking hours to building them. The park's Pony Pasture was also named as one of the city's Best Fishing Spots. Two of the magazine's staff also recognized the department. Senior Writer Harry Kollotz mentioned Scuffletown Park, one of the department's "pocket parks" in the Fan, as a favorite place to have lunch. Of course, there is a history hook for Harry, who often writes of Richmond's more obscure yet fascinating history. The park was the site of Scuffletown Tavern from the late 18th century until 1910, when it gave way to development. Harry considers the park "one of the origins of the Fan." Senior Editor Tina Eshleman also gave a nod to the department. She cited the department's Dogwood Dell Festival of the Arts as her favorite way to spend a summer evening, preferring it to visiting Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (another city-owned park) or attending the Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall. In addition, the South of the James Market was voted to be Richmond's Best Farmer's Market. The market, while not a department operation, is held in the department's Forest Hill Park every Saturday morning from May to December.

Did you know?

  • The National Recreation and Park Association chose Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones as one of three mayors supportive of parks and park programs to be featured in the November issue of its national magazine, "Parks & Recreation." Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Director Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, Ed.D., was interviewed for the article as well. The other two mayors featured in the article are Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Kansas City Mayor Sly James.
  • The department's pedal boat rides at Byrd Park were listed among the "81 ways to have fun with your children" in the June issue of Richmond magazine. The department's swimming pools also received a plug in the same issue as a great way to have fun and cool off for FREE!
  • The James River Park was named one of the best places in the country to hike by Natural Health magazine.
  • The Richmond Racers, the department's youth swim team, was featured on CBS 6 as one of the area's "HomeTeam All Stars" this spring. The Racers have dominated their league as champions and never placed less than second in the championship meet.
  • In July, the Friends of James River Park (FJRP) submitted 379 applications to DMV for James River Park System license plates, and in a few months you should be able to purchase these specialty plates. Once more than 1,000 plates are sold to the public, sales become a revenue generator for FJRP. The artwork for the plates was provided by Martin Agency employees.
  • The department was instrumental in helping to set a Guinness World Record for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson. The lesson took place at the department's Swansboro Pool on June 14 and was held simultaneously with the same lesson presented at other sites around the world. The purpose was to draw attention to the importance of teaching children how to swim.
  • Drowning is the second largest cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 14. In addition, research shows that if children don't learn to swim before the third grade, it is likely that they never will. Swimming lessons can save lives.
  • Recycling just one soda can rather than sending it to the landfill saves enough energy to operate a 60W incandescent lightbulb for 4.3 hours or a fluorescent bulb for 20 hours!
  • Etix, an international web-based ticketing company, is the new ticketing agent for the Landmark Theater. Customers can now purchase tickets for Landmark performances online directly from Ticketmaster wil continue to serve the Richmond Coliseum.
  • Maymont has been named one of America's 10 Great Public Spaces for 2011 by the American Planning Association. The 100-acre estate and admission-free city park is managed for the city by the Maymont Foundation.

Upcoming Events

  • Nov. 11, 4 pm - Veterans Day Ceremony at the Carillon in Byrd Park - Performances by city carillonneur Larry Robinson on the Carillon bells and vocal selections by the Cantare Choir of the Greater Richmond Children's Choir, as well as presentation of a memorial wreath in honor of the nation's veterans. FREE and open to the public. All veterans are invited to attend.
  • Nov. 11, 5-9 pm - World Hoop Day Celebration at Randolph Community Center, 1415 Grayland Ave. Co-sponsored by the Richmond Area Hoop Dancers, the mission of World Hoop Day is to bring joy through the importance of play to children around the world. The celebration features hula hoop demonstrations and workshops, hoop jams and more. FREE and open to the public. The first 100 children to arrive will receive free hula hoops!
  • Nov. 12, 1-2 pm - Friends of James River Park Invasive Plant Removal - Volunteers wanted to help remove invasive plants in the park. Dress appropriately in long pants, long sleeves and sturdy shoes, bring your work gloves, and meet at Pony Pasture, 600 Riverside Drive.
  • Nov. 17- Nov. 20 - "Fences" at Pine Camp Arts & Community Center, 4901 Old Brook Road.The African Repertory Theater Co. presents this 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning drama by August Wilson that explores the African-American experience and race relations. Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 8:30 pm, and Sunday at 4 pm. Tickets: $18 students and group rate; $22 general admission. Call 804-355-2187. Parental Advisory for strong language and racial overtones.
  • Nov. 18, 6:30 - 8 pm - "That ColorBlind Kind of Love," a staged reading at Hickory Hill Community Center, 3000 E. Belt Blvd.Co-sponsored by My Creative Spirit, this critically acclaimed drama asks, "Is love truly colorblind?" FREE with a small reception to follow.
  • Nov. 18 - Dec. 2 - "Expressions & Impressions" Female Imprints at Pine Camp Arts & Community Center Spotlight Gallery, 4901 Old Brook Road- This thesis exhibition features prints and artwork by Jamesha Hairston, teacher and graduate student in Virginia Commonwealth University's Master of Interdisciplinary Studies in Interdisciplinary Arts program. The public is invited to attend the Opening Reception Friday, Nov. 18, from 6 - 9 pm. Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 am-7 pm, and Saturday, 10 am - 2 pm. FREE.
  • Nov. 19, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm - Youth Soccer Championship Games at Bryan Park.FREE.
  • Nov. 19, 10 am - 4 pm - Youth Football Championship Games at City Stadium, 600 McCloy St.Admission: Children age 11 and younger, $2; Children age 12 and older and adults, $4.
  • Nov. 19, Noon - 2 pm - Beginning Fused Glass Jewelry Class at Pine Camp Arts & Community Center, 4901 Old Brook Road- Designed for fun, in this one-day workshop for beginners, you'll make two pendants, two magnets, two pair of earrings or mix and match while learning the basics of fused glass. $35 registration + $20 materials fee. Call 804-646-3674 to register.
  • Nov. 19, 1 - 3 pm - Friends of James River Park Riverside Drive Cleanup. Volunteers wanted to help pick up litter and clean the park along Riverside Drive. Wear sturdy shoes, bring work gloves and meet at Pony Pasture, 600 Riverside Drive.
  • Nov. 30, 5 pm - Deadline for Holly Ball Reservations. This holiday ball for senior citizens takes place at the Landmark Theater, 6 N. Laurel St., Dec. 8 from 8 - 11 pm, and features hors d'oeuvres, prizes, music and dancing. Reservations are $32 for a table seating eight or $4 per person. Call 804-646-1999.
  • Dec. 4, 4 pm - "Amahl and the Night Visitors" at the Landmark Theater, 6 N. Laurel St. The department's annual holiday gift to the city, this heartwarming musical for the entire family tells the story of the shepherd boy Amahl and his mother, and the miracle that changes their lives forever. FREE general admission.
  • Dec. 10, 10 am - 4 pm - Holiday Gift Sale at Pine Camp Arts & Community Center, 4901 Old Brook Road. Door prizes, unique gifts and more! This one-day sale features unique arts and crafts by Virginia artisans and hourly door prizes for shoppers! Enjoy refreshments while you shop and the children make a take-home craft! A portion of the proceeds benefit the department's Youth Art Scholarship Fund. Inquiries from interested vendors can be made by calling 804-646-3674.

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