Like several city of Independence departments, Parks and Recreation will experience the vacancy of several important positions this upcoming fiscal year.

Like several city of Independence departments, Parks and Recreation will experience the vacancy of several important positions this upcoming fiscal year.

As a result, Parks and Recreation is “going back to basics,” Eric Urfer, the department’s director, recently told the City Council.

“We’re going to provide a solid slate of programming and services,” he said, “and we’re going to focus on what our Parks and Recreation master plan suggests: taking care of all the great things we already have in our system.”

The following, Urfer said, are a sampling among the 42 objectives the department aims to accomplish next fiscal year, which begins on July 1: Complete the second phase of the Mill Creek Park ballfield complex renovation project, with the third and final phase scheduled for the summer of 2013; continue the park revitalization program; continue the park mobile equipment replacement program; complete the DeWitt Hall and McCoy saferoom facilities, which will be open next spring; and update the Parks and Recreation chapter of the City Code.

“With the help of our Park Commission, I think this is the year that we will finally get to updating the Parks and Recreation City Code,” Urfer said. “… The code should be updated to reflect not only the addition of all the new facilities that we have, but also all of the processes and programs that have evolved over time.

“For example, there really is no need to insist in the code that one use a proper hitching post to tie up your horse when you arrive at the park. It’s about time to do a little updating.”

Parks and Recreation’s funding comes from the general fund and from the parks sales tax. The general fund pays for administration, the parks and the recreation individual divisions and the Woodlawn Cemetery component.

The sales tax pays for park maintenance and security, the Truman Memorial Building, the Palmer Senior Center, family recreational programs, Adventure Oasis Water Park and sports administration.

Both components are about $3.9 million for the 2012-13 Parks and Recreation operations, which is about $375,000 less than the current fiscal year and about $675,000 less than two years ago, Urfer said.

The Parks Division manager – an administrative position – will be held vacant through at least the beginning of 2013. Urfer, along with the remaining parks supervisor, will absorb that manager’s duties and responsibilities.

“This will be particularly challenging,” Urfer said, “as we lost the recreational manager as part of last fiscal year and the project manager position the year before that, leaving the department very little in the way of administrative staff.”

Additionally, one light equipment operator and one parks supervisor – both positions in the parks division – will remain vacant throughout 2012 and 2013. Existing staff will fulfill these responsibilities.

The parks naturalist position will remain vacant at least until the opening of the new DeWitt Hall at George Owens Nature Park next spring. Outside contractor instructors will lead programs at the nature park in the meantime, Urfer said.

“As bleak as that might sound, tough times make you take a really hard look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing things,” he said. “And sometimes, you find a little bit better way to get at stuff. Through this process, we have certainly found some efficiencies, but I do want folks to know that this condition will cause a response time to citizen concerns and some park issues to be a little slower than in the past.”