Agency Spotlight: Syracuse Parks and Recreation, New York

By Belt, Catrina | Parks & Recreation, June 2015 | Go to article overview

Agency Spotlight: Syracuse Parks and Recreation, New York


Belt, Catrina, Parks & Recreation


Municipality: Syracuse, New York

Population: 144,669

Year Agency Founded: 1919

Annual Operating Budget: $7.6 million

Director: Commissioner Lazarus Sims

Full-time Employees: 104

Seasonal Employees: 750

Essential Information

1,000 acres of park land, 175 park properties, eight major community-wide parks including three listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 12 neighborhood parks, 50 playgrounds, 20 downtown parks, two golf courses, three ice rinks, two indoor and eight outdoor pools, two amphitheaters, four cemeteries, four natural-forested areas, two artificial turf fields, one running track and numerous courts and ball fields.

Community Wellness

The City of Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs reflects the rich history and diversity of the city of Syracuse. "Syracuse is large enough to have the capacity of a city yet small enough to have a town-like interaction with our public," says Glen Lewis, director of planning for Syracuse Parks and Recreation. "As a city, Syracuse developed incrementally so our park system is knitted into the city fabric, neighborhood by neighborhood. There are major parks in every section of the city as well as smaller parks that serve micro-neighborhoods."

Syracuse Parks and Recreation incorporates a wealth of offerings to promote a healthy and active lifestyle to residents throughout the city. The agency operates a number of facilities including walkable golf courses, ice-skating rinks, swimming pools and a recently opened skate plaza for boards and bikes. Beyond facilities, Syracuse offers a wide range of clubs, classes and activities in which community members may take part throughout the year. Syracuse has a strong running community that is supported through annual road races in area parks and neighborhoods. Syracuse Parks and Recreation also works with local fitness providers to offer free outdoor fitness, yoga and other wellness-themed classes in downtown parks during the workday in the summer. In addition to all of the adult programming, Syracuse serves hundreds of youth each year through organized basketball leagues, instructional sport clinics and robust summer day camps. The agency works closely with several community organizations to provide fields of play for a variety of youth sport programs throughout the year.

"A healthy citizenry contributes to a more vibrant community and a greater quality of life in our cities," says Chris Abbott, program director for Syracuse Parks and Recreation. "Few things are more pleasing to parks staff than to see a neighborhood park brimming with patrons on a fair weather day--in all four seasons--enjoying active pursuits ... running or walking a trail, engaging in team sports, using the playgrounds, swimming or snow-shoeing! We're a city that truly embraces its four distinct seasons, and our extensive network of parks and park facilities brings out the best in each of those seasons."

Out-of-School-Time Programming

In addition to the community facilities and programs, Syracuse Parks and Recreation promotes health and wellness to the youngest citizens of the community through out-of-school-time programming. "Out-of-school-time programs at city recreation centers have long been a source for active recreation opportunities for youth, from field games to team sports, indoor games, field trips and fun outdoor adventures close to home," says Abbott. "In fact, many of our more senior staff spent a great deal of time during their youth in the centers and on the courts of neighborhood parks before choosing to make recreation a career. Active recreation, in a variety of forms, continues to be foundational element of park programming"

Out-of-school-time participants benefit from a number of daily offerings including homework help, the Kid's Cafe hot meal program, active recreation, table games, recreational sports, mentorship activities, environmental education, arts and crafts, field trips, outdoor winter recreation and an array of special events. …

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