By SCOTT EDGER
Dodge City Daily Globe
DODGE CITY — Growing up on a farm outside Smith Center, Dodge City’s new Parks and Recreation Director Troy Brown nurtured his love of the outdoors from an early age.
His love of sports and his athletic pursuits initially spurred him to go to college with the goal of teaching and coaching. After a few sessions of classroom observation, Brown was quickly convinced otherwise.
“I didn’t want to be stuck inside all the time,” said Brown. “I made the decision at that time to take a different path.”
Ever since he decided against life inside a classroom, Brown has been engaged in parks and the outdoors his entire career.
Brown initiated his parks career as a seasonal parks employee for the city of Hays. Following college he continued to work for Hays as a general laborer in the parks department. Just six months into that job he was given the opportunity to take over as facilities director for the Hays Recreation Commission.
Brown would go on to be the park manager at Cedar Bluff State Park for 11 years before being promoted within the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to a regional supervisor position for much of the western third of the state.
Brown was formerly on the board of directors for HorseThief Reservoir, and said he believes he will soon re-join that group as well.
Dodge City’s expansion of its parks and recreation venues, such as Legends Park and Longbranch Lagoon, appealed to Brown. “I know it’s a progressive community,” he said.
The expansions were obviously large undertakings for the city. Brown said much of his task and philosophy revolves around maintaining and revitalizing current facilities so the city can get the most bang from its buck.
“Everybody likes new,” he said, “but these were huge projects. I look at this as we need to get into fixing and renovating the things we currently have versus going out and building new.”
His experience with Hays’ attempts to expand its parks has formed a fiscally responsible mindset toward parks and recreation growth.
“I’m definitely not against growth,” he said, “but if you don’t have a mechanism to pay for it you can get too big. People want new parks but I believe you’ve got to be able to demonstrate how you’re going to pay for it.”
In his time with Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Brown saw the importance of generating income rather than relying on tax dollars. He said he saw state funding progressively decrease and learned to market and attract visitors to the parks.
“That’s absolutely part of it,” he said. “It all ties together.”
Brown said he has already begun to have talks with various entities such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau about how to further utilize PARD facilities to spur economic activity in Dodge City. The CVB has the city’s summer softball tournament schedule posted on its website. Parks department events like summer tournaments bring hundreds of visitors to local hotels and shops and restaurants.
While there are discussions about renovating a youth softball complex, Brown said he is basically pleased with the state of current facilities and some of his task is managing expectations. He said improving existing structures and parks needs to be the priority.
“I’d like to concentrate on getting things up to par rather than brand-new projects,” he said. “It would be wonderful to have a brand new soccer complex or something like that, but that kind of thing is going to take time.”