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Proposal Recreates, Reunites Hartford Parks And Rec.

Jenna Carlesso

July 10, 2010

The city council is considering a proposal to revive the defunct parks and recreation department.

The department disbanded more than a decade ago for political reasons, said Councilman Luis Cotto. The parks department became a division of the department of public works, while the recreation department is now a division under the department of health and human services.

Cotto has introduced two resolutions that would merge the divisions to create a new parks and recreation department. He said the move would put a greater emphasis on services and development in those areas.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Cotto, chairman of the council's public works, parks and environment committee. "I think having a department totally focused on the needs of parks and recreation in our city benefits the whole system."

Kevin Burnham, director of the city's public works department, and Carlos Rivera, health and human services director, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Cotto estimated that creating the department, which would initially need at least four or five staff members, would cost about $500,000. He said he is exploring options for funding.

Cotto said he hopes the staff would work to secure more money for services from state and federal grants.

"I've heard complaints from people about the [inadequate] maintenance of the parks and the complaints are valid," he said. "Some of it can be chalked up to a lack of resources."

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said combining parks and recreation into a single department would make services more efficient.

"It makes sense. Most cities in the country have a parks and recreation department," he said. "I think the quality and number of recreation services has gone down, and it needs more attention."

But Kennedy said the plan would be difficult to execute because of the funding needed for positions in the new department.

"We'd have to cut another section of the budget for us to put that plan forward," he said. "Having the manpower to maintain services would be problematic for us long-term."

Before the council votes on the issue, members are waiting for recommendations from the city's green ribbon task force, a group of people dedicated to improving parks.

Cotto said reaction to his plan is favorable.

"I think people in general want it, but it comes down to money," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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