At the Mebane City Council November meeting, Mebane Recreation and Parks Director Aaron Davis came before the elected board to give them an update on his department. Davis provided information about the Recreation and Park Department’s plans to update its Advisory Committee - now known as an Advocacy Committee - while also giving the City Council more details about the City’s Holiday decorations and other recent activities.
“I realized when I started almost two years ago that all of the members of the Advisory Committee for Recreation and Parks, their terms had expired, and so I looked at that as an opportunity for change,” Davis told the City Council. “And I did some thinking and some looking - our National Parks and Recreation Association was putting out a campaign about Champions of Parks. I thought long and hard about what “champions” meant.”
Davis indicated that the seven-member board, now known as the Advocacy Committee, will consist of at least one individual who is an employee or official within local school systems, while the other six positions will be at-large.
“We’ll have seven members - none of which will be a City Council person,” Davis explained. “To me, advocacy is the biggest part of this group. For someone to want to volunteer - somebody who may want to go out to the parks and share the information about what Recreation and Parks is doing, and really be a champion for what’s happening around the city. I know that I can’t be everywhere at once, and I can’t be at the parks every single day, or out at all of them. We need help to share our message in what we’re doing.”
Although applications are typically accepted for these board positions through October 31, this year Davis requested to move that up to the end of November, so that the Recreation and Parks Department could hopefully present the City Council with some applicants at the next Council meeting.
“We could be ready for our first Advocacy Commission meeting in January,” Davis said.
Some of the aims of finding members for the advocacy group include sharing their story with the citizens, being a part of what’s to come, being eyes and ears for the Recreation and Parks Department, spending quality time and Mebane’s parks and events, helping the City plan for its future in Recreation and Parks, being a part of the City’s next Master Plan, giving suggestions and thoughts about current parks, programs, and events, having input in future park amenities, and being a liaison between the citizens and the Recreation and Parks Department.
“Just sharing what programs we have going on, what changes are happening - I’d love for those members to be able to share that message,” Davis said. “Talk about our programs. Be at the events. Just being an advocate for what we’re doing at Recreation and Parks.”
Mayor Ed Hooks stressed the need for the Advocacy Board to not have a voting member on it that is also a member of the City Council. The Mebane Bike and Pedestrian Committee made a similar move recently. One City Council member, Patty Philipps, was on the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, but recently stepped down to comply with the new policy.
“If we made the change on the bike (Bike and Pedestrian) board, we need to make the change on the Rec Board where a City Council member is not on the Committee,” Hooks said. “It’s the same with Bike and Ped - even thought Patty has stepped down (from the board) as far as a member, she continues to attend (meetings), and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
“I agree with that - act as a liaison, but not be one of the voting members,” said Philipps in response to Mayor Hooks.
“I’m looking forward to working with whoever that may be. Anybody could come to the meetings, and just not be voting. You can all come. That would be great,” said Davis. “We can make those adjustments as needed.”
Philipps and other City Council members heaped praise on Davis for the work he has done at Recreation and Parks over the past two years, as well as the enthusiasm he’s brought to his post.
“I think you’ve been doing a wonderful job of advocacy by yourself,” Philipps told Davis. “I saw your “Where’s Aaron/Where’s Waldo?” campaign, and it looked like you hit up every one of the parks in the last week or so. I think that the enthusiasm that is happening within our Parks and Rec Department now is really wonderful. And spreading that to other folks who can help you with that mission is a great idea.”
Davis mentioned that over Halloween weekend, Mebane’s Recreation and Parks Department hosted a COVID safe Drive-Thru Trick or Treat and Costume Contest.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a little bit crazy at the beginning, but we estimated about 600 kids came through. 300 of those pre-registered, which is really, really cool. They signed up and gave us what costumes their kids were going to wear so we could match them up, which was really neat,” Davis told the elected officials. “It was a six-hour event. I think some of the other leaders in the Recreation and Parks Department may have liked it to have been a little bit shorter. I think it was a good time frame. And while it was busy at the beginning, it kind of slowed down towards the end. It was great. We had some awesome costumes. We were hopeful this was a safe way for the kids.”
Along with the Halloween activities, Recreation and Parks has purchased multiple Holiday-themed items, including a Deer Family Photo Op at the corner of Clay and Third Streets, multiple Santa Mailboxes for children’s letters, which are located at City Hall, the Mebane Community Park, and the Mebane Arts and Community Center, as well as new Presidential Snowflakes for the light poles on Clay and Center Streets.
“We’re going to be doing a program with letters for Santa, that will be helping with delivering those to Santa, and making sure that Santa will write back. Santa will be responding,” Davis said.
“I never got over the fact that I sent one to Santa, and never got a response back. I’m still scarred. I will be writing in,” said City Council member Tim Bradley to laughs.
Some of the other new Holiday-themed items Mebane has purchased recently includes a large ornament at the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets, a 4-stack of ornaments at the Community Park roundabout, a Jolly St. Nick at the Fifth Street sign across the street from the pocket park, another Light Bulb Photo Opp at City Hall, and a North Pole Snowman Maker at the Fifth Street pocket park.
“We weren’t able to have Fourth of July and the fireworks, so we wanted to provide some new and exciting features for the Holidays for the community,” Davis explained. “I think this is a start to a plan where we’ll continually add more pieces and place them through town, and give people the opportunity to drive through and see the entire city. We sat down and I said, ‘We need to have things that will bring people to Mebane.’ So how can we get them to come here, take a picture, then have dinner and come to our parks? We hope that these photo opps will get out there on social media, and get more people to Mebane.”
“This is fantastic. Thank you. This is a great Council action, and a great staff. We’re very proud of you. Very proud,” said Mayor Hooks to Davis.
“A month or so ago out at the Arts Center, we were hanging out as people came and got masks,” added City Council member Everette Greene. “At Mill Creek, they were out there at the golf course for the kids to play with the kid’s golf program, doing a heck of a job. I rode through the trick or treat, and there was one thing that was a constant in all these things I’ve mentioned - and that was Aaron and his enthusiasm. I think we’ve gotten a good one.”
“I was making a presentation to Impact Alamance and Aaron was on the phone. I introduced him as the best Recreation and Parks Director in America,” added City Manager David Cheek.
“Remember that when review comes,” added Mayor Hooks to Davis.