Since 1939, the Visalia Parks and Recreation Department has been providing various community services to the citizens of Visalia. In 2009, the Department will be celebrating its “70th Anniversary”! Over the years, the Department has been known as the “Public Services Department”, “Recreation & Social Services”, “Leisure Services”, “Community Services” and “Parks and Recreation.”
The Department began in November, 1939 when City Council created the first five-member Parks, Playgrounds, and Recreation Commission. The Commission, working with the citizenry of the community, created the vision for the park system and the diverse recreation programs that we enjoy today.
Dick Whitmore was hired in 1939 as the first Director of the department to carry out the vision of the community, the Commission and the City Council. The leadership of the department has continued with the hiring of High Staley in 1947, Douglas Flautt in 1949, Keith Kelley in 1953, Dick Anthony in 1955, Art Daugherty in 1960, Eunice Riso in 1963, Donna Bailey in 1993, and Vincent Elizondo in 2004.
Today, Parks and Recreation is responsible for park planning, park development, park maintenance, community recreation and special events, urban trails along our waterways and major roadways and managing the urban forest which includes trees in the public right-of-way and in our City parks.
Parks and Recreation also manages the contracts of the high profi le Visalia Rawhide baseball club which utilizes the Recreation Park baseball stadium and CourseCo, Inc., which operates the Valley Oaks Municipal Golf Course adjacent to Plaza Park.
The park system now has 42 City parks and 249 acres of developed parkland. The City also owns 163 acres of open space that could be developed into parkland in the future. The City also has 22 miles of trails along the waterways that traverse through the City.
Plans are underway to develop six new parks within the next two years and to expand or significantly improve twelve of our existing parks! The majority of these improvements will be financed with park development impact fees or various federal and state park grant monies.
Parks and Recreation is proud of the role we play in improving the quality of life in our community through our parks and programs. As a tribute to our heritage in the community, we are currently developing a historical photograph archive that will soon be posted on the City’s website. Do you have vintage photographs or other Parks and Recreation memorabilia you can share with us related to our past programs or activities? If so, contact our department at 713-4585, we would enjoy the opportunity to share these artifacts with the community.