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HILLSVILLE — In an effort to expand recreational opportunities, Carroll County’s new recreation director says she’ll be looking to the public for ideas.
Beth Carico came to the position in May with experience at Virginia State Parks, including working as an assistant administrator of the New River Trail at Galax.
Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, her introduction to Virginia occurred as a part of the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks and leisure from Central Michigan University.
She landed an internship with York River State Park near Williamsburg, then got a full-time position at Mason Neck on the Potomac near Fairfax.
From there came her promotion to the New River Trail, and she stayed in that position about three years.
Carico found eastern Virginia so hot and humid that she considered going back to Michigan. Experiencing the mountains made her change her mind.
“I love the mountains and I love the area,” she said. “As soon as I moved here I thought this is definitely a place I can make a home.”
She also married a man from Fries, which influenced her decision to take the job with Carroll County. They discussed it and saw the opportunity for her to put down roots here and still work in recreation.
So, in working with the recreation committee and county officials, Carico hopes to expand services the rec department offers. “My goal is to provide the opportunities that the residents want.”
County officials are considering a survey or community meeting to get input on what citizens would like to see happen.
Carroll has riches in terms of outdoor opportunities, such as biking on the New River Trail, fishing and canoeing on the New River, interesting places like Devil’s Den.
And, of course, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs right through Carroll.
Carico can see helping organize biking or hiking or fishing outings, sightseeing trips on the parkway and visiting at the Blue Ridge Music Center — if that’s what people want.
The Carroll rec department already does sports well, and Carico and assistant director Renae Sizemore want to add to the programs.
“We’ve worked so well together and we’re working as a team for the development of the department,” Carico said.
The department reaches a large number of children — 800 participated in baseball and softball last year, 545 in basketball, 254 in football and 75 in cheerleading and 350 in the adult leagues.
In terms of sports, Carico said the department plans to add peewee flag football and cheerleading for children in grades K-3, as well as co-ed softball for adults.
“The program that we have, we run it well, but for the people in the county and up to the senior age group, we don’t have many offerings for them at this time,” Carico said.
Getting people participating in activities they enjoy and getting them into the outdoors and to exercise are quality of life issues, Carico said. She’d like to encourage people to take advantage of new opportunities.
New programs could give people the chance to learn new skills and hobbies that could stay with them their entire lives, she said.
“If we can reach the residents through activities like that, I think our program will be a success.”
It’s unfortunate that efforts to expand programs at the rec park come just as the Carroll supervisors decided not to reopen the pool this year due to budgetary restraints. Carico said she could understand both sides — the desire of parents to see the pool remain open for their children and the need to make the finances work.
The rec department would like to have the facilities needed to host all its activities, but it continues to rely on courts and fields at the schools.
Myron Dalton, chairman of the rec commission, went before the supervisors last year with a facilities development plan.
The commission continues to gather information on how it might proceed with that.
“We’re still in that mode of looking and taking it slow so we make the right decision,” he said.
The economic climate is posing continuing problems, and that will likely have an effect on the effort.
“The economy has handcuffed us a little bit and maybe a whole lot,” he said.
This may mean the county will have to use what it’s got in a better way while keeping alive the dream of improved recreational facilities, including a rec center to house a gym and basketball courts along with ballfields, Dalton noted.
The economic outlook appears as if it may hinder the option of acquiring new land for a recreational park, he said. The rec commission has to look at what it has and keep the options open.
Carroll could do what Galax has — keep the main park for activities and sports, alongside developing new ones like Mountain View to add to the offerings.
It’s like the old saying that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Dalton indicated. “If we expand there it doesn’t handcuff us or keep us there. We can expand to other places.”
Implementing new programs can take a while. He hopes people will continue to participate and continue to share ideas about what else they’d like to see the rec department offer.
“We just think we’re stronger when we gather thoughts from citizens,” Dalton said. “We just think we’re stronger when everybody voices their thoughts and dreams.”
County officials have not decided on the exact method of getting citizen input on the rec park yet, Carico said. The intent is to get a plan in motion soon.
She and Sizemore are excited to see where the program can go for the good of citizens. Carico notes there’s always a learning curve when you start a new job.
“I am just thrilled to be here,” Carico said.