Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
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Kristen King shifts to NPR parks

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NEW PORT RICHEY - The memorabilia on Kristen King's desk reflects her mission as the newly hired events and community outreach coordinator for New Port Richey Parks and Recreation Department."With enough coffee, I can do anything," proclaims a gag message on an enormous coffee cup that holds a roll of paper towels and knick-knacks.She then points to a placard with her favorite inspirational saying from poet Emily Dickinson: "Dwell on possibility."The city's award-winning parks and recreation facilities make her job easy, King said. The possibilities appear endless to her."If you see it, you just fall in love with it," King said of the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, at 6630 Van Buren St."When you look at the pools, it almost looks like a theme park," King said.She marvels at the scenic beauty of other city parks and recreation areas, such as the Grey Preserve.For New Port Richey officials, however, there aren't enough people availing themselves of the city's parks and other recreation facilities - possibly because they don't know they exist.King intends to change that. She can draw upon her experience over the past several years as executive director of Chasco Fiesta, a community celebration organized by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.King only started her job with the city a few weeks ago, but she already has six goals in mind with notes she has scribbled onto a dry-erase board. Monthly newsletter, surveys, videos, public service announcements, a comment box and birthday parties are among goals.King also wants to bolster the department's Facebook page. For instance, the page could include bulletins when inclement weather might force the pools to close.She has been poring over the 74-page report with recommendations from consulting firm Ballard and King. "We already started implementing some things," King said. The city department formed partnerships with Pasco County and the city of Port Richey to entice more people beyond city residents.A Chick-fil-A franchisee is now operating the concession stand at the recreation center."I love doing the events," King said. She cited the new Night Spiker Volleyball event for teens ages 13 to 18 this Friday, 8:30-11 p.m., at the recreation center. Black lights will illuminate glow-in-the-dark body paint of players.Summer camp is full with 170 participants and a waiting list. A field trip to Legoland is coming soon among camp highlights. The city boasts that its camp fees are among the most affordable.Coming in August will be the Cotee Man Triathlon and Night in the Tropics, which she wants to help cross-promote.Becoming an evangelist of sorts for the city department, King wants to speak more often before community groups. For instance, she might speak at a Weight Watchers group about health and wellness opportunities.Challenges remain, King acknowledges."I'm a numbers junkie," King said with a chuckle as she poked through charts and graphs in the consultant study. The median household income in the city was a bit more than $32,000 in 2010. That pales in comparison with $42,335 in Pasco County and $54,442 nationally.Another long-term goal would be to expand the lap pool to eight lanes in order to lure more tournaments.When relaxing on her own time, King works with the Pit Bull Crew dog rescue group. She is fostering a dog, Rango, right now. "They're really sweet," she said. "They're just misunderstood."She's also big into recycling.Most important, she enjoys spending time with her two sons, John, 12, and Anthony, 10.corth@suncoastnews.com(727) 815-1068

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