Dennis Dovel is coming to Blue Springs as the new director of Parks and Recreation.

Dennis Dovel is coming to Blue Springs as the new director of Parks and Recreation.

Actually, he already lives here.

Dovel, named last week by the city as the new director, said he’s quite familiar with the city’s park system. Not only does he enjoy it on a personal level, but he knows Roscoe Righter, who retired from the job in October after 33 years.

Currently serving as the director for Liberty’s Parks and Recreation Department, Dovel will keep his professional life closer to home when he assumes his new position in Blue Springs on Jan. 17.

He’s quite excited.

“But it was a difficult decision to make,” he said about the change.

In comparative terms, Blue Springs and Liberty are different and the same. Both are centered on providing safe and efficient living standards for families, and both focus on their respective parks system. Liberty has approximately 500 acres of park land, a city community center and sports complex.

In Blue Springs, Dovel will have more to work with. With 19 public parks (four of which are underdeveloped) on approximately 816 acres of park land, the City of Cooperation could be, in his eyes, the City of Opportunity.

“You look at Blue Springs and also by living here – I understood what they’ve done and what they’ve tried to build over the years,” he said.

While Blue Springs has the Centennial Pool-Plex, it does not have a central area that serves as a “hub.” In Liberty, residents have the Liberty Community Center, a 54,000-square-foot facility with nearly all those amenities a young family could want.

“That’s the biggest thing Blue Springs is missing – a central gathering point,” he said. “A place like that makes a city vibrant.”

But Dovel is realistic; he knows the challenges of a struggling economy. Leaders in both Blue Springs and Liberty are doing what they can to cut costs and corners without sacrificing services.

There has been little discussion about a community center in Blue Springs. If anything, there has been talk about a new pool system.

What Dovel wants to do immediately is simple – he wants to reach out to all people and groups who have an interest in the parks and recreation department.

“You have to make connections with everyone in the community,” he said, adding that Blue Springs relies heavily on associations that assist parks and recreation programs, while Liberty relies mostly on staff.

Over the course of 23 years, Dovel has also served as the Sports Complex manager in Liberty, the superintendant of recreation for Jackson County, and held various recreation program coordinator roles.

A  graduate of the University of Missouri who earned a bachelor of science degree in parks, recreation and tourism, Dovel is a certified parks and recreation professional by the National Recreation and Park Association and a member of the National Recreation and Park Association and the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association.