Bridgeport to Serve as Host for 50th Annual West Virginia Recreation and Parks Association Conference

By Chris Johnson on September 12, 2023 via

Bringing the West Virginia Recreation and Parks Association annual conference to Bridgeport is something that has been discussed in the past.
Bridgeport’s Parks and Recreation Director Joe Shuttleworth however wanted to see one project in particular up and running before signing on to host the event.
“I wanted to get The Bridge (specifically the Citynet Center) done,” Shuttleworth said. “I was hoping we would have the inclusive playground done too, that would have been another feather in the cap to show off.
“A lot of people are excited to come to this event, especially with The Bridge. That’s going to be one of the highlights of the event.”
The WVRPA is a non-profit educational leisure service organization actively concerned with recreation, parks, conservation, environmental education, programs and issues with a blend of professionals, volunteers, educators and students who are aware of the mental, physical, social and economic values of parks and recreation.
The annual conference is a chance for those involved with the WVRPA to get together and network with colleagues from throughout the state.
If the conference coming to Bridgeport (Sept. 19-21) for the first time wasn’t cause enough for excitement, it also marks the 50th anniversary of the conference.
“We’ve done a big push to try and get some new people,” Shuttlworth said. Currently, on the professional side, we are about double what we normally are so a lot of people are coming because they want to see the facility or they are new people, there are new positions or there are new people in new positions.
“We have a lot of vendors coming as well. We will have an exhibit hall set up with all kinds of different services that are relevant to our field.”
The mjaority of the activites for the conference will take place at either The Bridge or The Bridgeport Conference Center. There is also a golf tournament scheduled for Sept. 19 at Clarksburg Country Club.
There will be keynote/educational sessions on all three days, an awards luncheon on the final day and the big 50th anniversary bash on Sept. 20 at the Bridgeport Conference Center with dinner, live music, a reunion, an auction and more.
Shuttleworth is proud of the parks and recreation facilities in Bridgeport but he may be even more proud of the staff that makes them work.
“The conference is a good time to show off the staff and the hard work they put in,” he said. “I get a lot of questions statewide about how we do things. Actually, a couple of the speakers are on the staff here.
“Madolyn Mallory, who does our marketing, she is going to do a class about how to market your programs and facilities. She does a really good job for us. Droo Callahan is going to do a team-building workshop.
“We are including our staff right now to our food and beverages, which is catering part of it.”
One new feature for this year’s conference is a giveway by a playground company that is one of the WVRPA’s longest partners.
“They have been involved in the WVPRA for a long time, longer than I have been in the profession,” Shuttleworth said. “They approached us about this, they are going to give away to a community in West Virginia, a complete, installed turn-key playground.”
While he is looking forward to showing off the facilities and his staff, Shuttleworth is also excited about spending three days with peers from throughout the state.
“We pride ourselves on doing a great job and being able to stay on the cutting edge to try and work on providing great services to our citizens,” Shuttleworth said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others. There are other parts of the state that do some great things, maybe better than us in some regards.
“The nice thing about an association like this is you meet people and make contacts. It’s a peer network that you create. You are going to to meet someone that does the exact same job somewhere else and you can bounce ideas off each other.
“Like my relationship with John Cooper, who recently retired over in Clarksburg. He’s one of my best friends. Even when Don (Burton) was here, us and John we worked together on a lot of things and you build those relationships over time.”
Shuttleworth credits Amy Callahan, the Recreation Coordinator for Brideport Parks and Recreation, Doug Comer, who replaced Cooper at Harrison County Parks and Rec and Greg Cottrill with Doddridge County with being crucial parts of the committee to help prepare for next week’s conference.
He also wanted to remind members of The Bridge to be aware of the extra people in and around the Citynet Center next week.
“From about 7:30, 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. there will be a lot of people in The Bridge, so there may be a little disruption,” Shuttleworth said.
Editor's Note: Top photo is of the Citynet Center. Bottom photo of Shuttlworth from a recent City Council meeting.

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