Liberty County Recreation Department Director Jimmy Martin was the guest speaker at Thursday’s Progress through People Luncheon hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center in Fleming-ton.
Martin is in his 17th year as the director of the LCRD. Before him, Charles Shuman served as the founder and director for 27 years.
“He was known as the dean of recreation in South Georgia for a long time before he retired,” Martin said while talking about Shuman and the building named in his honor at James Brown Park. “He served as a mentor for many young recreation directors, including myself.”
In November, Martin said, the LCRD will celebrate 44 years of providing programs and services for the citizens of Liberty County.
“In all those years, it has grown from having one full-time employee and a tiny little baseball field to a multifaceted recreational operation with facilities and programs throughout the county,” Martin said.
The LCRD currently employs 16 full-time employees, nine part-time employees, more than 100 seasonal workers and most importantly, well over 200 volunteers each year.
Martin explained that the board of county commissioners oversees the LCRD and must approve all the programs and projects. He added that the commission has been very supportive of the LCRD for many years. Many of the current board members participated in the programs and services provided through the LCRD when they were children.
In 1972, the LCRD became a member of the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association. Martin currently serves on the GRPA staff to help establish guidelines for state competitions.
The LCRD has roughly 19 parks and facilities throughout the county. The newest addition is the Liberty County Community Complex in Midway.
“The people on the east end (of the county) are extremely happy with the Liberty County Community Complex. The swimming pool has been a great addition. The playground is heavily used, and I know that a huge number of people are using the library there. The auditorium that is available now is being used heavily as well, so it has all been very well received,” Martin said, adding that the LCCC provides more than just recreational activities. He said future plans include a tax office, where people could pay for vehicle tags.
Martin said they are planning to develop the Riceboro Youth Center in the future.
“The city of Riceboro and the LCRD are collaborating on some plans to develop the area around the youth center to include a walking trail and playground,” he said. “There are some improvements on the board there, and of course there is also Briar Bay Park in Riceboro, so we do have a large park available for the community there as well.”
Martin spoke about the variety of sports programs the LCRD offers throughout the year. Some programs are seasonal, like football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball and softball in the spring. But he said there are several camps and sports program offered year-round, like tae kwon do, jujitsu, body sculpting and weight lifting.
Martin reminded everyone in attendance that the LCRD also provides after-school programs, day camps, summer camps and more.
Many of the facilities at the LCRD are available for full-day or half-day rentals, like the Stafford Pavilion and facilities at Gum Branch Park, Eve Park, Briar Bay Park, Hillery Park, Holmestown Park, Irene B. Thomas Park and Jesse Stevens Park.
He said there have been 700 rentals per year, which results in enough revenue to maintain the parks.
Martin said the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax has provided funding for the projects and improvements at the LCRD for the past 20 years.
“In all, right at $10 million has been spent on recreation for the past 20 years. That makes us one of the lucky recipients of the SPLOST funds. … The Hinesville pool is a perfect example. The old pool was completely torn out and replaced with a brand new pool,” Martin said.
He said several parks were redeveloped and improved with SPLOST funds and cited these examples: the new tennis courts at James Brown, Eve Park in Colonels Island, the playgrounds at Briar Bay and Holmestown Parks, the renovation of the Stafford Pavilion and the redevelopment of the Liberty baseball field.
Martin said SPLOST funds will be used to complete phase two of the LCCC, which includes the gym and baseball fields, walking trail and pavilion. He said they need to redevelop Jones Creek Park and Joseph Miller Park as well.
For more information on the LCRD parks, facilities, sports programs and specialized programs, call 876-5359 or go to http://lcrd2.homestead.com.