September 1, 2022 | News

City to reestablish recreation department under new LOST agreement

Writer: Taylor Cooper

Published September 1, 2022
The Brunswick News

A year from now, the city of Brunswick plans to run its own recreation department again.

“We do want to make sure we take back and have athletics, especially for the city youth and residents,” said Regina McDuffie, city manager.

City and county administrations announced this week that they’d reached an agreement on how to split Local Option Sales Tax proceeds. Part of that agreement was that the city would run its own recreation department.

Glynn County took over the city’s recreation program in 2012 in exchange for a larger percentage of sales tax revenue. The county takeover of the program followed a 2011 report by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government that the Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department was operating inefficiently and costing the city a great deal of money.

While the city is taking back its recreation program, the LOST split is not changing. Sales tax has grown substantially in the last few years, she said, and property taxes have risen, although not as much. She said the city is banking on those increases covering the cost of a recreation department.

Glynn County’s Recreation and Parks Department will have been in charge of all parks and recreation programs countywide for 10 years in December, said Vanessa Booker, recreation coordinator at Howard Coffin Park. She worked for the city’s recreation department for 26 years before the county took over.

The city’s recreation activities were spread across Howard Coffin Park, the Roosevelt Lawrence Community Center and some Glynn County Schools facilities, she said. It offered football, basketball and track and field. By 2012, it had dropped baseball due to a lack of interest from city residents.

It continued to offer women’s and coed softball in the adult leagues, along with basketball.

“The only difference was we had a county rec and city rec. We had football and cheerleading, basketball, girls and boys,” Booker said. “The last 10 years, we started offering track instead of baseball and softball.”

When the county took over, some employees were moved to other departments, went to work elsewhere or took jobs with the county. Reggie Jackson, former director of the city’s recreation department who now works for the Boys and Girls Club of Brunswick, obviously wasn’t pleased at the time.

“A lot of parents weren’t either, and they displayed that in commission meetings,” Jackson said. “It came down to funding. They just had to consider what they wanted to pay for.”

City residents lost the convenience of going to and participating in activities that were all within the city limits, specifically football and basketball, he said. Glynn County did not continue to offer all of the same sports leagues in Brunswick.

By the time city and county departments merged, he said, the city offered various sports for youth, adults and seniors, after-school and summer programs and maintained the parks and square. He estimated it had a budget of around $2 million at the time.

McDuffie said the city’s current plan is to reestablish the same sports leagues it ran in the past for city residents and potentially partner with Coastal Outreach Soccer to manage a city soccer league.

She was once in charge of a community center in Macon County, and during her tenure introduced several arts programs as well, including dancing, music and theater.

When kids can actively participate in something, like producing a play or assembling a stage and sets, they learn so much more, she said. It’s much easier for a child’s mind to soak up an experience than simply being told how to do something. She saw that firsthand with Macon County’s community center.

They learned about lights and sound, stage work,” McDuffie said. “It gave them ownership of the production.”

After the city’s athletics are reestablished, McDuffie said she wants to bring some of that to Brunswick but doesn’t want to start there. The department could also implement some design, programming and information technology learning opportunities.

“I hope we’ll have people in the community who want to participate with the city on this,” McDuffie said.

Whether Booker, currently a county employee working in a city facility, will be part of that is unknown.

“I really don’t know,” she told The News. “I’m just looking for where God is leading me. I was with the city for 26 years and the county for 10. I’ve been in recreation for 36 years. I’m looking forward to retirement, so I’m not really sure.”