I grew up in Westerville, Ohio. After a decade living it up in various urban Columbus neighborhoods, my wife and I decided to lay down roots in my hometown. Fast forward a few years to when I was fortunate enough to be appointed to the City of Westerville Park and Recreation Advisory Board in 2019.
If you’re not familiar with our little hamlet, Westerville prides itself on being a city within a park. Biases aside, you feel this mantra living in Westerville. Our parks, trails and pathways are treasured, keeping us connected and creating a recreational system that serves as the centerpiece of our community.
Don’t just take my word for it. The department is nationally recognized as one of only three municipalities to be a five-time recipient of the National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Additionally, they’ve been deemed compliant with 151 rigorous standards to be one of 191 out of 12,000 eligible communities to be accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies since 2005.
My first monthly meeting serving the department was January 16, 2020. My excitement was high. I found a new outlet to be involved with my childhood hometown and the place I call home as a parent who regularly takes advantage of the 26 parks and 50 miles of paths within city limits. Our role as advisory board members as I saw it was to be a sounding board for decisions and initiatives led by the department and represent the community’s best interests to the best of our ability.
Of course, the whole world changed shortly after my onboarding, when the global pandemic shut everything down. My excitement was tempered by the sight of seeing our beloved public parks actually closed to the public, with no clarity of when that would cease. As someone who loves the outdoors, this sight never was easy to see.
In my 38 years, I don’t know that I’ve seen or will ever see a team more committed than the Parks and Recreation team for the City of Westerville. They have done everything they can over my three years on the advisory board to fulfill the City’s promise to provide world class parks and recreational amenities. It’s been so inspiring to peek behind the curtain and see all of the tireless work that goes into living up to these expectations year in and year out - especially with the enormous additional challenge of navigating their successes during this unprecedented time. In just my three years, this department has brought to life:
Fast forward to today, as I documented before, my family increasingly has more commitments on our calendar, resulting in me needing to be very deliberate about how I spend my time, including extracurriculars I can commit to. Because of this, I sadly did not seek reappointment to the Parks and Recreation Board following my three-year term.
My point in drafting this is to not seek any kind of praise for my very small commitment over these three years. Moreso, it is to show my appreciation and respect to this team and to highlight to all parents that Westerville has unique and varied parks, greenspaces and recreational amenities to enjoy with your family whenever you’re ready for a visit. If I can answer any questions or provide any recommendations, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to help or direct you to this amazing team.
-Steven Michalovich, regular contributor
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CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.