JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With the blessings of the new City Council, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker is pursuing more bilateral or multilateral partnerships with other North Fulton cities for mutual benefit, and the top of his list is recreation and parks.
Now that Bodker is off the City Council’s leash, he is eager to explore ideas of sharing projects and services among other North Fulton cities and he is starting with recreation. A straw poll of other North Fulton city officials shows there is not only interest, but enthusiasm for the idea.
“I am anxious to pursue a policy of parks without borders,” Bodker said. “The idea is to create a framework for how we go forward to conduct recreation discussions. That would be for the mayor to meet with [other entities] and then bring back those discussions to the council.”
The council would then discuss, consider and tweak it until the council had a policy it could support. Then, council would take it back to the other party and hammer out a final agreement.
“We would then give it staff to implement – which is just the reverse process we have been operating under before. The idea is to let the mayor be the mayor,” Bodker said.
Roswell Recreation and Parks Director Joe Glover has one of the top four recreation departments in the country based on its third top-four finish for the Gold Medal award given by the National Parks and Recreation Association.
He oversees a lot of parkland and has the budget to share. Is Roswell interested in sharing services? Glover says that is all over his radar screen.
“We’ve been trying to do that for a while,” Glover said. “You want to do more things with younger people, what appeals to them. There is always room for plenty more.
“In recreation, we cooperate with everybody. North Fulton recreation [directors] have discussions all the time,” he said. “We all want the same thing, which is to serve as many people we can in a way that makes fiscal sense.”
Glover said he is glad to hear Bodker and Johns Creek want to sit down to talk about shared services. He said he is ready any time.
Everyone talks about an aquatic center such as the one Forsyth County recently opened. But it is a big ticket item – as much as $12 million or $14 million. That won’t happen for North Fulton unless the cities decide to cooperate and share costs.
Jim Cregge has a unique take on the idea of shared services. He is not only the Milton Recreation and Parks Department director, he is also the former chairman of the Alpharetta Recreation Commission. As coach and administrator, he has been hands-on involved in local recreation for a number of years.
Cregge’s first reaction to the idea that Johns Creek wants to explore sharing recreation services was two words:
He was excited, to say the least. He said Alpharetta and Milton have been working closely together on recreation for some years now, and he has found it to be successful.
“The cooperation between Alpharetta and Milton has been fabulous. It has worked very well. I believe it has been a win-win for both cities to work together in recreation,” Cregge said. “I think Alpharetta Recreation has received much more financial benefit than they would have in the old way of doing things.
“And the citizens of Milton have definitely received more benefit than they could have possibly imagined,” he said. “Any time you have folks working together rather than trying to invent the same wheel, it’s a plus for the taxpayer.”
Cregge said while it looks like the city with fewer recreation resources gets more out of shared services than the city with more established resources, it does not always work that way.
While programs such as baseball and football are popular and slots are easy to fill, Alpharetta and Roswell have found it helps to have more participation in less popular sports or activities to defray the cost of the programs.
Glover said many programs that they offer could not be supported by city residents alone. Just how the North Fulton recreation systems would mesh would require some threshing out.
Cregge said an accommodation seems to makes sense for Alpharetta and Johns Creek because Alpharetta’s Webb Bridge Park and Johns Creek’s Ocee Park are so close together.
“There are a lot of people from both cities who could use both parks. Would that make sense? Absolutely. And if Johns Creek ever wanted to talk to Milton, of course we would listen,” Cregge said.