Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers
Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Jarrod Dean sees a bright future for the county in his new role, with plenty of respect included for Putnam's past.
Dean, 36, became the PCPRC executive director on Nov. 7, having worked previously in the executive branch of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
"I was born and raised in Huntington and worked in Charleston for a little while, he said last week. "After my wife and I got married, we moved to Putnam County. One of the reasons was because the county has such a good school rating. We've lived here for about four years.
"My background is in engineering project management. I did sales and development for several structural steel fabrication companies, plus their economic development and a lot of construction stuff.
"I've done project management for the last 12 years, and had actually been doing some work with [Valley Park] with the Department of Agriculture, establishing the community garden here with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, Dean said.
Ground was broken in April for the Highmark Community Garden, which has 60 raised-bed plots for community members and organizations to grow fresh produce for food banks, schools and other entities in the area.
Dean also serves on the board of directors of the Putnam Farmers Market, which operates during growing season at Valley Park in Hurricane.
Among Dean's first projects underway is Yuletide at the Park at Valley Park, which opened last week and continues through the end of December.
"We're in full throttle for Yuletide in the Park this year, he said. "We've changed some things up this year. There are a lot more lights, and we have projectors on the Commons building. I think folks are really going to enjoy seeing the things we've been doing a little bit differently this year.
"Multiple times, I've told the staff here that it's a new day here and there'll be a lot that will be done differently. We're going to innovate the parks to the fullest we can, including on energy and operating more efficiently. It's going to be good, Dean said.
Also in motion is a $15 million, two-phase renovation of Valley Park, announced to the public in mid-October by the Putnam County Commission. First-phase overhauls will include updating several recreational areas; converting the baseball, softball and soccer fields from grass to turf surfaces and repurposing them to regulation sizes for tournament play; and constructing a new, all-inclusive playground. Completion on the first phase is anticipated for fall 2017.
The second phase will involve construction of a larger community center on the Valley Park grounds.
"This project would not be possible without the Putnam County Commission -- Joe Haynes, Steve Andes and Andy Skidmore, Dean said. "And the new county commissioner, Ron Foster, coming on board, he'll also be picking up the pace of what's going on here. County Manager Brian Donat and Assistant County Manager Jeremy Young are two of the gentlemen who'll be doing a lot of the legwork. This is a County Commission project.
"My role in this, while the construction is going on, is that I will be the boots on the ground' manager on the project. I'll be making sure that's everybody's here, that things are going smoothly. Moving forward from that, my role is to see that everything runs smoothly. We've got a lot of plans.
"It's really exciting what's going on here, Dean said. "The thing I keep saying is that this is going to be the premiere park in West Virginia, just with all of the amenities we're going to have here.
"We're building a 30,000-square-foot convention center with a main hall with seating for 450 people, with tables and chairs. Without the tables and chairs, you can seat about 1,000 people in there.
"We'll be able to hold large conferences and have meeting space. The large hall can divide into three sections, so we can have several things going on; they have retractable and soundproof walls. We can have meetings and conferences so that companies do not have go outside the county or outside the state. For the last several years, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce has had to have its annual banquet meeting at the Marriott in Charleston. That'll no longer happen; they'll be able to have that here, said Dean.
"It's going to serve the county well. It's also going to serve as the entrance to the Wave Pool, and we'll be able to have weddings, receptions, anything like that.
The projected completion date for the new community center is mid-2018, he said.
While the facility will bring a new look and numerous growth opportunities to the park, Dean said he is mindful of its heritage, which he and others intend to incorporate.
"The current community center was built in 1980, he said, "and has served the community very well over the last 30 years. It is subject to being torn down, but we are refurbishing a lot of materials from this building. The red barn at the front of the park will be turned into a multipurpose facility. I want to use the outside wood, extracting it off the walls and putting it inside to create a barn-style venue for anybody who wants to have a wedding there. It will also be used for small-scale concerts, whether it's jazz, bluegrass, gospel or classical.
"A lot of folks are nostalgic about the building, and I understand that, Dean said.
He said the memorial plaques that have been installed at the outgoing center will be transferred to the new facility and highlighted on a memorial wall.
"A lot of folks got a little upset that we're tearing this building down, he said, "but I want them to know there's going to be a great amount of materials that will be used in the new one. Its large chandeliers will be standing in that barn, also. We'll have the heritage still incorporated in the park.
Dean said the current center's heating and air-conditioning equipment will also be transplanted into the new structure. "The HVAC is only about six years old. We're going to put that in the barn for heat and air; it'll save the taxpayers about $30,000 by doing that. We're also saving the appliances.
"It's something folks will be proud of, especially the memorial wall, he said.
Dean added that repairs are underway to reopen the Valley Park Wave Pool in 2017, and the PCPRC has received a recent West Virginia Department of Transportation grant of nearly $46,000 to renovate the restrooms at the park in Hometown.
Dean lives in Hurricane with his wife, Andrea, and their two children, Ava, 2, and 7-month-old Alexander. "This is a huge blessing for me, and my family. I'm excited to be on board, he said.
To reach Dean at the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission, call 304-562-0518.
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