Lance Romo is a Recreation Coordinator in the City of Bellingham Parks & Recreation Department.
Beyond just maintaining the physical space—a green patch in the middle of the city–what does the parks department do?
They physical space is a big part of it. It takes a lot of work to find and buy right spaces for parks. There’s a lot of planning involved. Trails are especially complex because they have to be routed around (and sometimes over or under) roads and shopping centers and the like. Figuring out how to navigate a trail across I-5 is often a challenge, we’re working on a few of those right now.
Once a park is selected and purchased, it needs to be developed which requires again a lot of planning and permitting. Then the operations department takes care of it, and ensures that it remains a nice place to be for many years to come. There are several guys who cut grass and do landscaping plus an electrician and a plumber. Some of the plumbing in Bellingham parks is very old. They have some terracotta plumbing to deal with, believe it or not.
And then what I do: Recreation.
Traditional municipal recreation is classes and camps. And there’s so much of that in the community now, we don’t organize as much ourselves and focus more on facilitation. We help citizens who want to hold events in a city park. I help those folks think through all the ins and outs of what their event will require.
Others on our team work with the schools to schedule camps and sports practices on school grounds and in city parks.
What’s a day in the life of a Recreation Coordinator?
You know, you’d think it would be really fun—lots of time outside maybe, but I actually spend a lot of time here at my desk helping folks work out the details of their events.
We coordinate about 104 events per year, so we work hard to make sure that each is on the right day and in the right location.
We also publish the Leisure Guide each quarter, so that citizens can see what’s coming up for them.
What have been the biggest projects for the Parks Department recently?
We just completed a lot of work on Sunset Park, changed the flow of a creek actually, so that the space would better accommodate the kind of recreating that folks want to do there.
Squalicum Creek Park has also come a long way. It was a gravel pit not too long ago, and a lot of the people who lived nearby wanted it to be not-a-gravel pit. It’s a gorgeous park today.
What does Bellingham need?
I think we would benefit from turf. We have a lot of sports fields, but games and practices get rained out pretty often. We installed it at Civic Field and went from 10-12 games a year to now—people are on that field almost daily now.
Personally, I’d like to see more parking for both cars and bikes. Faithlife downtown has more bike parking than any two of our parks.
And I know that some people don’t like cars, but that’s how moms with kids generally get to our parks. There are a few families who bike with their children, but I wish we could accommodate more parking for both bicycles and minivans.