Highlights of 2013: Giving up the Parks board gavel

It was a great year to be chair of Raleigh’s Parks board. In February, I led what I consider the best meeting I’ve ever led. The energy I from these kinds of meetings will leave me giddily bouncing off the walls for hours. It’s a shame that I get good at this right before I have to turn it over to someone else.

I did get some good park dedications this year, some of which I probably didn’t blog about. In April, I gave what was arguably my best speech at the Neuse River Greenway dedication. I followed that up with a speech at the synthetic field dedication at the WRAL Soccer Complex. Though there wasn’t much of a crowd at this one, it was special because my parents got to witness it.
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No, dogs are NOT people

This is not a person

This is not a person

At a dog adoption event last weekend, the governor’s wife, Ann McCrory, explained her philosophy about training dogs. She said “consistency is key.”

“It’s no different from raising children,” she said, “making sure they eat properly and don’t go into the kitchen like my husband and take chocolate chip cookies by the handful.”

Now, I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs. McCrory; it can’t be easy being an introvert in such a high-profile position not of your choosing. I also know this might have made sense in its particular context. Yet with all due respect for Mrs. McCrory, she has no experience with raising children and has no real idea what she’s talking about.

Back during a May public hearing on Raleigh’s dogs-in-parks problem, one speaker ended her statement with this gem. Whatever points she had just made in her statement flew completely out of my mind:

“Remember, all dogs are people in innocent little fur coats.”

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RALEIGH: Gun rights group threatens to sue Raleigh over outdated park signs

A gun nut group threatens to sue Raleigh over its signs saying guns are prohibited in its parks. While the signs might no longer be accurate, as far as I know they are still legal. I’m not sure what jurisdiction Mr. Valone thinks he has over the city’s signage.

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s most vocal gun rights group is threatening to sue Raleigh if it doesn’t update signs in city parks that tell visitors firearms aren’t allowed.

Grass Roots North Carolina sent a letter to the Raleigh City Council this week, requesting an update to the signs now that state law allows concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns to playgrounds, greenways and college campuses.

via RALEIGH: Gun rights group threatens to sue Raleigh over outdated park signs | Local Politics | NewsObserver.com.

Given up the gavel

I gave up the gavel of the Raleigh Parks board last night, passing on the chairmanship to Kimberley Siran, who along with Scott Reston make up the new leadership team. We went through the entire meeting agenda last night without a quorum, holding off on the action items until one more member arrived. When Rodger Koopman arrived around 6:15 we voted to approve our minutes and to officially elect our new leaders.

It’s been a fun ride as chair of the Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board (PRGAB) but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new leadership brings us. Congratulations to the new team!

The homeless and Moore Square

The past few weeks have had a number of stories, many unflattering, about Raleigh’s treatment of groups feeding the homeless in Moore Square. It seems most of the coverage has been one-sided in favor of the groups, often stretching the truth in some cases. I am not privy to the decisions that went into the city’s controversial policy – those are made at a level much higher than mine – but I do have some thoughts about the situation.

  • No one should go hungry. I think everyone agrees on this.
  • Moore Square is a public park.
  • A lot of homeless people hang around the park.
  • Everyone is welcome to use the park during the day.
  • The park is frequently full of trash.
  • There have been a number of violent incidents in the park.
  • Anyone with a history of violence should not be welcome in the park.
  • There are better places to feed the hungry.
  • A meal is only a small fraction (though important, nonetheless) of what these people need.

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Dogs in parks issue postponed

Due to a high likelihood that the Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board (PRGAB) will not have a quorum tonight, the issue of restricting dogs in certain areas of parks will not be taken up at tonight’s meeting. Almost half of our board members have said they are unable to make it. This is an important issue we’re considering and we want to make sure all our members have the chance to weigh in with their thoughts, particularly those members who serve on the committee which considered it, the Greenways and Urban Trees Committee (GWUT).

Another factor is the change in location, part of the board’s desire to explore all the great meeting spaces the Parks system has to offer. We are meeting at the new Hill Street Neighborhood Park off of Skycrest Drive. It would not be good to have those interested in the dog issue schlep all the way out to Hill Street only to find that the issue wasn’t being considered. We’ll likely take it up at the next meeting, which should be held at the usual place: the Jaycees Module building off Wade Avenue.

This will be a notable meeting for another reason, however: it will be the last Parks board meeting I chair. I’ll officially hand the gavel over to Kimberley Siran tonight. She’ll be great.

Dogs in parks

This month, the Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board (PRGAB) votes on a proposed ordinance prohibiting dogs from certain areas of parks. There are plenty of proponents and opponents for this new ordinance and it’s been difficult finding the right balance.

One of the PRGAB’s committees, the Greenways and Urban Trees Committee (GWUT), is recommending the ordinance be passed in its entirety. Dog owners have pleaded to continue being able to use athletic fields to exercise their dogs.

Everyone agrees that Raleigh has a shortage of dog parks. Until we can add more, I think it’s fair to make allowances for dog owners who have no other place to go. Therefore, rather than recommend restricting dogs from certain areas of all city parks, I will recommend the board allow for staff to allow dogs on fields where posted signs specifically allow it. As the city phases in more dog parks, we can move dogs to those parks and off athletic fields.

Incidentally, I had forgotten the extent of the role I played in bringing this about. A friend in the Oakwood neighborhood had a frightening encounter with an unleashed dog in Oakwood mini-park in April 2012 and it was I who brought it to the attention of Parks staff, who promptly added it to our work plan:
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Getting the zombie band back together

As a family we’ve participated in some fun events over the last few years. I’ve mentioned our musical performances as “The Highlanders,” where we’ve played at a few recitals. That’s been fun and I’ve kinda missed the chance to play. I’ve been kicking around the idea of just inviting my neighbors over for regular jam sessions.

This week, Travis’s piano teacher told us that she was working on another gig for the Highlanders, this time playing at some event. I don’t have the details but I think it’s fun to think about!

Yesterday, we got contacted by our friends over at Mordecai Historic Park. They’re lining up zombies already for their Haunted Mordecai Trolley and wondered if we as a zombie family would be willing to perform again. One of the chosen dates is Halloween and another is Travis’s birthday, which would be hard to pull off, but the other, the 19th, at least would work for us. Both kids were enthusiastic about the idea.

I’m so glad we have these quirky opportunities to be total hams together.

Wrapping up as Parks Board chair

CASL synthetic field dedication

CASL synthetic field dedication

Sunday afternoon I gave a speech at my last park dedication before I hand the Raleigh Parks Board gavel to another boardmember. For over three years (two as chair, one as vice chair) I’ve been representing the board at ribbon cuttings, dedications, groundbreakings, and other events. It’s been wonderful practice in public speaking, including how to research, write and deliver a speech. As Parks chair, I’ve attended more of these events than any single city councilor and even the mayor herself so I’ve had quite a bit of practice.

Sunday’s event was the dedication of new synthetic fields at CASL’s WRAL Soccer Complex. There were more staff, friends, and family there (including Kelly, the kids, and my parents) than there were members of the public but that was fine. I was glad that my parents could get a chance to see me speak while I was still chair.

Someone who’s heard my speeches before told me he liked my speeches because I usually have some numbers in them. My kids said they like how I include some humor. I think including some facts and jokes can help make a speech memorable.

The Board chair election is next month, so September will be the last official meeting I’ll lead. I’ve got one more year left to serve on the board but I’ll do so as a regular member. After that, who knows that the future will bring? It’s sure been fun being chair, though, and I appreciate the tremendous opportunity it’s provided to lead.


Looks like you can add another urban critter to the list of critters seen in my East Raleigh neighborhood: coyotes! A neighbor reported an encounter with one this morning in the Woodcrest neighborhood:

This morning at about 6:30 AM I saw a coyote walking across Dennis down towards Banks Street. I also saw a couple of foxes around Lions Park late Wednesday night.

Keep an eye on your pets when you let them out. There seems to be several predators living in or around the neighborhood.

Last week, a friend told me of an encounter he had last month on the Middle Crabtree Creek greenway. I described it to my friend John Connors who works at the Nature Research Center:
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