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Just Ask Jan: Shifting Gears

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dear Jan, 

I’ve been working in recreation programming for 3 years, and while I enjoy the environment of parks and recreation, I’d rather support my P&R department from an administrative level.  The work itself feels so different than what I’m currently doing – is it even possible to change careers?  What’s my first step?


Shifting Gears


Dear Shifting Gears,

If administrative work is your bag, Parks & Recreation is the perfect place to learn, develop and hone administrative skill sets! From tasks such as cashiering at the front desk to data entry to class and reservation permit management to registration software administration to promotional marketing and graphic arts focus to office management and contracting, there are so many avenues to explore in administrative support. 

I recommend starting with skills that you already have in your Parks & Recreation portfolio and examine your past education and work experience and start rebuilding your resume.  You can ask your current supervisor if there is a need within your agency for some project administrative assistance and then demonstrate your interest and talent in your abilities as an administrator.

Don’t be afraid to try different options and learn new software applications in areas of finance, human resources, and record management, legal, planning and building, permitting and other outlets to build your administrative resume.

Sometimes a job just pops up so don’t forget to check out the ORPA job board for openings at other Parks & Recreation agencies too. An opening may be right around the corner for you and I wish you luck with your search!





Jan Wirtz is the Recreation Superintendent at Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.  With her years of history comes sage career advice for park and recreation professionals at any level in their career.

Submit a question to Just Ask Jan to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

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A Message from ORPA President Rachel Dials

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Message from President Rachel Dials

Watch the video



First and foremost, I hope that you, your family and friends are staying safe and healthy during this challenging time. If you are like me you’ve gone through every emotion as our days are filled with emergency plans, zoom meetings, work-at-home directives, self-quarantining, social distancing, and adapting to the “new-normal”.   

There is no playbook (or notebook that Leslie Knope could follow) for how best to respond to the rapidly evolving concerns related to COVID-19.  We are navigating an uncharted course while keeping our panic and our fear in check.  All the while leading our teams from a distance, from our homes, or from our empty community center buildings and offices.

While there has been much uncertainty in the world, I have been encouraged by each of you and the leadership shown around the State of Oregon. Your ideas, your engagement and innovation, and your collective energy inspires me.  It is proof we are maneuvering through this time together.

Of course, we couldn’t come together in the ways we have over the past month without the leadership of ORPA and the staff, Michael Klein and Amanda Parsons.  I’m here to remind you that ORPA is here for you!


·      The Admin Section is hosting weekly conference calls.

·      Webinars from all around the country are being listed on the ORPA Calendar.

·      ORPA has launched a new Forum where community members can connect.


All of this is available on the ORPA website.

Please reach out to myself or the ORPA staff if you have suggestions on how we can serve you better within the Association. Your input does matter.

We are in this together and we will get through this together.

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Just Ask Jan: Last Man Standing

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Updated: Friday, April 3, 2020

Dear Jan, 

Our agency (like everyone else) has shut down facilities.  While I've been lucky not to be laid off or furloughed, I'm having to take on the work of everyone else on our team whom we've lost or let go.  Programs may be on hold, but it doesn't mean we can just stop... we still need to work for the future.  However, talk about coronavirus has taken over everything and I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I have so much work to do, but can't seem to focus on any of it.  Help!


Last Man Standing


Dear Last Man Standing,

My heart goes out to you and I am grateful to you for sending this question.  There will be many Parks & Rec pros that feel your same distress with the current abnormal situation.  Even though things seem to change every day and there's new information to absorb, I think we all feel a similar grief about our losses. 

During this season of serious COVID concerns, it's so important to put your priorities in order, and the number one priority is YOU!  Use all the resources you know of to take care of your needs.  You can't help anyone or with anything if you aren't feeling well physically or emotionally and there's never been a more important time for self-care.  If all the COVID chatter at work makes you anxious, step away from it or limit your engagement time.  Can you work remotely or partially remotely?  If no, then take some quiet time to breathe and calm yourself during your workday and home life.  

The second tip I'd like to share is to revisit your favorite way to organize and sort the stuff!  Sometimes a familiar and orderly process helps you feel like you're in control and then you can make some progress and feel better about the work happening now and in the future.  Through your organizational process, you can identify the volume, categorize and prioritize the tasks that you've inherited, and put together your plan of attack.  You may discover some tasks that someone else might be able to take on and some tasks that you can perform more efficiently if you bundle and integrate them with your current tasks and some tasks that just won't get accomplished.  Hi Boss, can you help me???

These times won't last forever and it's good that you reached out.  We're in this together and We Are ORPA!





Jan Wirtz is the Recreation Superintendent at Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.  With her years of history comes sage career advice for park and recreation professionals at any level in their career.

Submit a question to Just Ask Jan to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

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Just Ask Jan: What Is My Role?

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dear Jan,


I supervise an ongoing long term project and am responsible for the end result.
The members on the team come from different departments and report to different supervisors.

When issues come up, I sometimes find myself questioning my next step.

I am looking for some tips as to what to address, what to let go of and when to potentially talk to their direct supervisor.




What is my role?



Hi there 'What is my Role?'

I hereby empower YOU, well, someone else did first and I second that! Your role is the supervisor, you were selected to lead the project, you are responsible for the results.  You set the responsibilities, the timelines, the check –ins, the deadlines and most importantly the expectations. If you do this and leave room for team building and bonding and accept respectful input and the team members don’t follow through, it’s on them, not you.

I think that instead of questioning yourself, you should question the members of your team if they don’t produce results. Hold them accountable, how many chances do they get? That’s your role too; you decide, and if they don’t meet the mark, then you go to their supervisor and ask for a replacement from that department.  No need for guilt, no need for questioning your abilities, move on, and don’t forget to recognize all the team members who do the work and get it done.  

Step by step, everyone shares in the glory, and the end result should be a fabulous party!





Jan Wirtz is the Recreation Superintendent at Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.  With her years of history comes sage career advice for park and recreation professionals at any level in their career.

Submit a question to Just Ask Jan to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

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Just Ask Jan: Not Done Growing

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dear Jan, 

Recently my agency has gone through a structural reorganization and an opportunity has opened up above my current position.  My long-time manager and mentor has recommended I apply for the job.  However, doing so means giving up parts of my job that I love and I'm not sure if I'm ready to take the leap.  How do I know if I'm ready?


Not Done Growing.


Dear Growing, 

Wow!  A restructure is an exciting opportunity for an agency to explore and experience the job and challenges of change.  Employees can really benefit within the profession when this type of situation occurs.  For you, the question begs the answer if you are ready to take a different path.  Would you be willing to self-reflect and ask yourself these three questions?

  • Are you ready to grow both personally and professionally?
  • Would you regret it if you didn't apply for the new position?
  • Lastly, would you enjoy teaching someone else (new role as mentor) how to perform some of the tasks you so enjoy presently?

From what I read in your message, you have a champion that has confidence in you and you have the prospect of a promotion and those don't happen every day.  If you can answer yes to at least two of the above questions, then you are ready.





Jan Wirtz is the Recreation Superintendent at Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.  With her years of history comes sage career advice for park and recreation professionals at any level in their career.

Submit a question to Just Ask Jan to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

Tags:  Just Ask Jan 

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Just Ask Jan: Better Qualified

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Dear Jan,

At my job the manager I got along with so well retired.  The new manager is from outside the state and we don't always see eye to eye.  It is causing a lot of stress.  I know this person is my boss, but I've been here longer and know how things are supposed to run!  What do I do?


Better Qualified.


Dear Better Qualified,

Adjust your attitude, please.  Seriously, flexibility and keeping an open mind to new ways of doing things is going to help YOU with your stress level. Your new boss needs support and you owe it to yourself to give the new manager the benefit of the doubt that the reason they were hired is because they have the experience and qualifications and they know what they are doing.

Yes, you may have to adapt to new ways and not that the past methods and approaches aren’t valuable, it’s just change. Have a sit down with your new manager and get to know the person as a person, not just as your boss.  Make sure that you find some common ground or interests and then never under any circumstances ever ever say, “We’ve always done it that way”. Explain to your boss what worked, what you liked about a certain style or approach and discuss what you two can do to make things work better.

Improvement in communication on something that you work on together will be the building block to a better working relationship, relieve your stress and you may learn something new and start enjoying new approaches. You may see a brand new appreciation for working with your new boss and while your past time working at your agency is great for your longevity record, learning and adapting to change can actually lead to a happier and longer life. 





Jan Wirtz is the Recreation Superintendent at Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.  With her years of history comes sage career advice for park and recreation professionals at any level in their career.

Submit a question to Just Ask Jan to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

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La Grande Parks & Recreation Department Partners with Local Providers to Reach Out to Underserved Youth

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Written By: Stu Spence, Parks & Recreation Director, La Grande Parks & Recreation


In 2016, an amazing partnership was formed that made a connection with kids in the very rural parts of Union County to get them to La Grande to attend Spring Break Camp.  Over the last four years, over 70 kids have attended with no cost to the parents.  Now the program is being expanded to not only engage those kids for a week during Spring Break, but several other times this summer.



As a sector member of the Union County Safe Communities Coalition, the Parks & Recreation Department developed a partnership with Union County CARE (Community Access for Resource Effectiveness) who works closely with low income and at-risk families through local school districts connecting them to basic services in the community. 

For parks and rec, Spring Break Camp participation was waning and the department was looking for ways to increase attendance. 

Through a series of conversations facilitated by the Director of the Safe Communities Coalition, several different partners were mobilized to put a plan into action.  CARE had families in the outlying areas of the County that needed child care during spring break.  Many of these parents battle poverty and addiction and live 20 – 30 miles from La Grande.



Through the network of the Union County Safe Communities Coalition which is funded through the National Drug Free Communities Support Program several barriers were broken down. 

The Coalition had funding to pay for the kids to go, CARE identified the families most in need, and the Parks & Recreation Department provided transportation and discounted the weekly rate by 25%, and Grande Ronde Hospital provided everyone in the program a healthy lunch.

Since its inception, these partnerships have made a profound impact on these families.  “We’ve found that removing the barriers of cost, transportation, and food, we are able to serve families that need us the most,” Stu Spence, Parks & Recreation Director said. 

Spence continued, “The best feeling is walking into camp and seeing the smiles and enjoyment on their faces just playing like normal kids.  Since these kids are from the outlying areas, other kids don’t know their situation and they are able to participate without judgement or ridicule.”

McKayla Nitz, La Grande’s Recreation Supervisor brags of the program saying, “Most don’t leave their town and ask if we are going to the city when they are on the ½ hour van ride into town.”  She said that it’s a little sad that they think La Grande is the City, but many of the children don’t get out of their little area. 

“Several comment on how fun the hikes are because they never get to do that,” she said. 

She is also thankful the kids come smelling like cigarette smoke leave smelling clean due to all the outdoor activities they get to experience.

Sherlyn Roberts, Union County CARE Coordinator is thankful for the program saying that some of these kids don’t get to interact with caring adults because their parents are caught up in their own “drama” or are constantly on their phones. 

In one case she shares, “a little boy and his family was on the run from Child Protective Services in Idaho after going all winter without running water in their home.  These kids are so resilient, but we have to provide programs like this where they feel normal and interact with normal kids and normal adults.” 

She goes on to say, “Providing transportation and meals is huge.  Many of these kids during school breaks don’t get breakfast and lunch since the school normally provides them.”  In one case she had a parent complain about the inconvenience of getting her child up in the morning to catch the van to La Grande. 



Since this program has been so successful over the last few years, another partner has jumped in, Soroptimist of La Grande has now taken over the funding for registrations and transportation allowing the Parks & Recreation Department to expand into summer programs.

We won’t know the outcome of our efforts for potentially years, but providing positive engaging activities is playing a major role in the resiliency of these kids.  They are getting exposed to activities they never get to do because they can’t afford them.  They are learning new games, going new places, and making new friends. 

But perhaps, most importantly they feel equal and not less than their peers.

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Gnome Small Feat: A Stewardship Program Gains Traction Using Their Wits, Social Media, and Some Garden Friends

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2019

By Amanda Parsons


Marketing requires more than just a good product - you need to stand out from the crowd.  It makes sense, then, that the Lake Oswego stewardship program used their smallest, cutest, friends to get the attention of the community.

Bryant Woods Park

For those who maintain natural areas, it is no surprise that community buy-in is an important aspect to maintain those spaces.  Friends groups and dedicated volunteers are certainly a starting point.  But with volunteers coming and going, and steep competition for their time, a stewardship program must find a way to be seen.

The city of Lake Oswego, Oregon, has a small stewardship program built almost entirely on the strength of its volunteers.  In the off-season, volunteers can be found removing invasive ivy in the various parks around the city.

This tough job leaves only the most dedicated citizens to help with removal.  Often, these volunteers are retirees or older adults.  While the work they do is valued, it begs the question: how do we reach youth to establish a future for stewardship?

“We kept hearing from our volunteers that they needed a time out – that we needed to recruit new families,” said Megan Big John, Crew Leader for Parks and Open Spaces.  “That is how this all started.”

Lake Oswego’s Stewardship program began looking for ways to outreach to the community.  The goals were simple:  Teach people the importance of the work and encourage the next generation to want to participate.

The first step was to take out a newspaper advertisement in the local paper.  Then, the parks graphic designer added a bit of whimsy to the ad.

“It started very grassroots,” claimed Big John.  “A gnome image was included in the newspaper ad about the stewardship program.”

Not originally part of any formal marketing plan, the connection between gnomes and stewardship grew organically.

“Gnomes are such inviting characters, I thought they would make great representation for the division,” said Dave Arpin, the Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation Digital and Graphic Media Specialist and creator of the gnome idea.

Eventually, the gnome concept made its way through the city – in a big way.

“We thought, what can we give away?” said Big John.  “That turned into stickers and then temporary tattoos, all with the gnomes.  Then we started hearing other divisions in the department were asking for these gnomes to give away at concerts and events.  There was this catch.”

From one gnome came three and each character was developed. 

Stewardship Gnomes

Then the stewardship program had an idea.

“In 2017 we had the idea to invite the community members to name the gnomes,” said Babs Hamachek, Lake Oswego Parks Stewardship Coordinator. 

Attending several community events, the team collected 200 entries and a panel of judges selected the winners.

“We celebrated the winners at an event, and each person shared their story for how they came up with their gnome names.” Hamachek said.

Naming the gnomes was a form of community buy-in that resonated with Lake Oswego.  The three gnomes became the mascots of the Lake Oswego Stewardship program.

It also served to increase participation from families in the stewardship program.

“When I go to work parties, I set out the gnomes for the kids.  I teach them about the sword ferns we are planting.  They love it!” Hamachek is grinning as she relays the excitement she sees from children. 

“We also have these discovery buckets,” said Big John.  “They are a sand pail with a spoon, a magnifying glass, a paint brush, a bug catcher… we can have parents participating at the work party and kids can take these tools and start digging in the dirt or looking under a log.”

It seems the stewardship team has thought of everything.  But as time rolled on, the stewardship program faced a problem.

“In the summer, this is the stewardship lull time.  Our work parties don’t occur.  So how do we get people to come out and visit, even if they aren’t volunteers?” asked Big John.

The stewardship program leaned on the success and popularity of the gnomes.  Taking to social media, they announced that the gnomes were hiding in the parks around the city. 

Hamachek spent the summer hiding the gnomes in parks.  A park or trail entrance would include a sign providing information about the gnomes, the stewardship project, and a hashtag to share on social media when a gnome was found.

“It is important to inform,” said Hamachek. “In addition, we would post a sign after the gnomes were moved, ‘the gnomes have roamed’.  It is a soft close so people know to look at the next park.”

And when someone found a gnome?  Take a selfie with the gnome and use #LOparksgnomes on Facebook or Instagram.

A social media campaign not only created awareness about the stewardship program, but it also got people outside and into parks. 

“Inevitably, I would be out in a park, collecting gnomes to move to the next place, and down the trail comes a family with kids.  I’d ask what they’re up to.  And they would say, ‘We’re coming to look for the gnomes, it’s our favorite thing to do.’” Hamachek reflected. 

This story is one of many she could tell about the public relating their familiarity with the gnomes.  Whether it be at a farmer’s market, work party, or out and about, she runs into people who know about the gnomes.

“We used the gnomes to attract ourselves to youth.  Whether it was to get them to come to a work party, or just know about the natural areas,” said Big John

“We know it works!  We’ve seen an uptick in youth at volunteer parties.”

In the end, Lake Oswego ended up with a campaign that both educated the community, got them out into parks, and increased participation in the stewardship program. 

“Getting the attention of these families,” relays Hamachek, “having them discover a new natural area… that is an epic win.”


Read all about the Stewardship Gnomes and check out the fun and interactive website.

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What's She Hiding? Parks and Recreation Employee Makes Residents Hunt for Answers

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Friday, February 15, 2019

By Amanda Parsons


February is decidedly ‘off-season’ in Oregon.  Only the true die-hard, outdoorsy, types make their way through muddy trails in the pouring rain during the few hours of daylight. 

The lack of crowds makes the perfect cover for one Roseburg Parks & Recreation employee.  Velorie Ligon uses this time to hide. 

But she isn’t hibernating.  She is hiding treasures around the city and trails.  Treasures, it turns out, people really want to find.  And she is making them work for it.


(Photo Credit: Visit Roseburg)

Nestled in the Umpqua River Valley in Southern Oregon is the unassuming but charming city of Roseburg.  With a population of fewer than 25,000 residents, Roseburg’s character stems from its sweeping views and proximity to outdoor recreation.  There is no question that an Oregonian looking to explore the outdoors would find inspiring refuge here.

The potential for a good hike isn’t the only reason visitors travel from around the world to see Roseburg.  They are looking for something.   A lot of somethings actually – and Roseburg has hidden them well.

“Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt using a GPS device or smartphone with an app,” says Velorie Ligon, Recreation Coordinator for Roseburg Parks and Recreation.  “The basic idea is to locate hidden containers called geocaches, located outdoors, and share your experience online.”

Every year Velorie creates caches around the City of Roseburg.  Then, people go looking for them.  This is all part of an effort to get people outside in the off-season – and it is working.

“We usually get between 100 and 125 people at our kick-off event,” says Kris Ammerman, Parks and Recreation Program Manager.  “About 85% of those people are from out of town.”

This year marks the 9th anniversary of an event Roseburg hosts called Discover Roseburg.  Using the parameters of geocaching, Discover Roseburg is an activity that provides players with coordinates to locations around the local area. 

Half of the coordinates are caches, a hidden item and log book to be found using GPS.  The other half are “virtual” and include finding something of value at the location.  Virtual coordinates include historical monuments, local restaurants and shops, and scenic areas.

The first weekend in February, Roseburg Parks and Recreation hosts the “kick-off” event where passports with coordinates are distributed and the search begins. 

The kick-off event also announces the theme for the year.  This year, the theme is Land of Umpqua, honoring the Wild and Scenic River designation of the North Umpqua River. 

“I’ve always wanted to go that direction with geocaches,” said Velorie regarding the theme’s location.  “The North Umpqua trail runs along the river and is a 79 mile trail that is open only for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.  We are showcasing that as well.”

Besides a beautiful hike in nature, what can participants expect to find?  Geocaching involves hiding an item, typically with a small logbook so hunters can record their find.  But it isn’t easy.

Velorie leans on her creative side when it comes to hiding caches.  “Last year, I passed a gate that had a bunch of locks on it,” she said. “I thought, I’m going to put a fake lock on there!  I approached one of our engineers and told him what I wanted to do and he came up with a lock that is hollowed out inside.”

This challenge may seem almost cruel, but for geocachers, it is exactly the kind of fun they are seeking.

“There is a puzzle element,” said Kris Ammerman, “but it is outside in beautiful or historical areas.”

The virtual caches are a little different.  These caches don’t have a log book.  Instead they direct participants to answer questions about the location.

“One year, we led people to the VA hospital grounds and there is [an MIA war memorial].  I asked a question that prompted people to read the plaques and get a little history,” said Velorie.

Some virtual caches are businesses, such as tourism, or local restaurants.  It encourages people to discover all aspects of Roseburg.

At the end of the day, after a beautiful hike and perhaps a stop in one of downtown Roseburg’s restaurants, participants return to the kick off or City Hall and turn in their passports.

Their reward?  A custom-minted commemorative coin.

“People collect them because they are different every year.  The year we had the shooting [at Umpqua Community College], it was a really sad one, but the coin had the Oregon outline with the heart to represent how the community came together and how much support we had.”

Velorie works with a company every year to create the design of the coins so they appropriately match the year’s theme.

“We order 200 coins and keep giving them out throughout the year as people turn in their passports.” Said Velorie.  As long as they have coins, someone can pick up a passport at city hall.  In fact, many people turn in last year’s passport at the kick-off event.

The kick-off event culminates at the end of the day with a celebration and raffling additional prizes.

Ammerman relays comments from participants, “More than once I’ll hear, ‘I’ve lived here my entire life, yet I never knew… these things were here!’” 

He says residents and non-residents alike enjoy coming to this event and finding something new.  “It is true to its name, Discover Roseburg.”



Velorie shared that the idea for geocaching was not her own, but rather, something she learned about through the City of Lincoln City who also used to have a geocaching event.  This is a perfect example of how we learn from each other.  She is happy to contribute the tradition of sharing information and is available to provide more information about how she plans this event every year.  

You can reach out to Velorie at Roseburg by calling (541.492.6899) or emailing her at

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From Pool to Historic Home: An Oregon City Rock Star Proves Learning Never Stops

Posted By Amanda Parsons, Monday, January 14, 2019
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2019

Let's say your city just spent almost $1 million on restoring the oldest house in the county because of its historical significance.

From a new and permanent location to a full building renovation, the home now boasts renewed life.

There's just one problem. Someone needs to manage it, but no one on the payroll has experience with historic preservation or interpretive planning.

What do you do?

Do you task your Aquatic and Recreation Supervisor with overseeing the grand opening and programming of the new museum?

Probably not. That would be ridiculous.

Of course, that didn't stop Oregon City.

Grand Reopening of Ermatinger House

Last year, Oregon City announced the reopening of a historical landmark.  The Ermatinger House is one of the oldest structures in Clackamas County and has ties to the Hudson’s Bay company and the famous coin toss event that resulted in the naming of the city of Portland. 

In 2011 the house closed due to structural concerns.  As an old house, it needed improvements and restoration.  Roughly $1 million dollars was spent to bring this home back to glory and find a permanent location.

Following restoration, conversations among Oregon City management turned to programming.  The biggest challenge the city faced was that they lacked a historic preservationist or anyone with the background or experience to take on such a project.

“We started to talk about who was going to be ultimately responsible for this house and this program, which is so different than the typical work that recreation professionals do,” said Phil Lewis, Community Services Director for the City of Oregon City. 

Having a historic house under the purview of parks and recreation is not uncommon.  However, without an interpreter or preservationist in the staff, there was less guidance.

Rochelle Anderholm-ParschEnter Rochelle Anderholm-Parsch, the Aquatic and Recreation Supervisor for the City of Oregon City. 

According to Mr. Lewis, “it was very apparent that this would be a prime opportunity for Rochelle to step in with a new team and put together an interpretive plan and a program.”

“When I got the call and they said, ‘what do you think about this?’, I thought, ‘Yes!’” said Rochelle when asked about the assignment.  Her enthusiasm wavered slightly when she hung up the phone and the enormity of the project sunk in. 

Located at the Oregon City Pool, Rochelle manages aquatic recreation, pool maintenance, and community recreation that takes place inside the facility.  Beyond the center, she also manages camps, concerts in the park, movies in the park, and recreational sports.  Between events and programs, Rochelle has several teams she oversees.  It would be a disservice to assume she had spare time on her hands.

She wasn’t deterred.  Faced with another role, Rochelle’s first challenge included balancing her current workload.

“I sat down with the people I work with every day and said, ‘Okay, here’s the deal: I got this awesome opportunity, our department gets to open up this house that has been closed for so long, but I’m gonna have to change some of my work load,’” she tentatively offered. 

The response?  Overwhelming support.  Not only was Rochelle met with a chorus of “yes!”, she received the same support when trying to adjust the budget. 

“We didn’t really have a budget to open [the house],” she said.  “So we identified areas where we could pull money.”  Pulling a little money here and there from programs allowed her to get the budget she needed.  “The whole team said yes to each thing.”

It is no surprise she had such a supportive staff.  Speaking to Rochelle feels like speaking to your most supportive friend.  The one who constantly tells you to follow your dreams and will usually finish with, “how can I help?”

With her current responsibilities looked after, Rochelle began diving into the task at hand.  Without any background or knowledge about programming a historic home, she fell back onto her skill at networking.

“The first thing I did was start calling people I knew outside the agency who have experience,” she said.  Her outreach started with a network she cultivated from her time serving with the Oregon Recreation and Park Association.  “Then I started to meet with anybody and everybody who would meet with me in the community.”  With each call, she met new people and learned names of who to speak with about creating a program.

It didn’t stop there.  Between pouring over the strategic plan for the house, and watching commission meetings from years’ past, Rochelle took it upon herself to investigate the history of both the house and its history in the city. 

“Even though the historic [property] wasn’t something she envisioned herself getting into, it is something she has grown a passion for and wants to see successful,” said Melissa Tierney, a recreation programmer working with Rochelle.  After working together for 11 years, Melissa expressed joy in watching Rochelle take on this new role and get excited about it.

As her research unfolded, she realized the need for an interpretive plan.  An interpretive plan would spell out the mission for the house, topics of each exhibit and what artifacts are displayed.  For this, Rochelle needed a specialist.

“At this point, I had an idea of what the house needed to take it to the next step.  So, I rewrote a recreation programmer job to basically fit into a docent position,” said Rochelle.

Through a nation-wide search, they found Lisa Demarais, a recent graduate from the University of Georgia with a Masters in Historic Preservation.

“I really wanted to work with a town that had strong history and that had a project with an opportunity to grow something, as opposed to entering a house that was already well established,” said Lisa. 

“Lisa said she really wanted to get into policy writing and interpretive plan writing and I thought, okay, you’re perfect,” said Rochelle excitedly.  “Where my limitations are… she has the background.  We can work together.”

The perfect partnership seemed just the ticket as the two worked together toward the grand reopening of the Ermatinger House.  With Lisa managing the details around the house, and Rochelle getting the community involved, both helped restore the home so it could tell a story.

Serving as a museum and marking a time in Oregon City history, the living room of the home is the location of a famous coin-toss.  In 1845, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove flipped a coin to decide on the name for the city of Portland. 

This historic event was reenacted at the grand opening last July with the descendants from both the families, resulting in a different outcome: naming the city Boston. 

“We had 300-something people come through,” said Lisa, describing her role giving tours and presenting certificates to the descendants of the Ermatinger, Pettygrove, and Lovejoy families. 

“I have no experience planning an event at that scale,” Lisa continued.  “That was all Rochelle.  She has been great.”

“Rochelle has the know-how of putting together an experience for the community and being able to put together the pieces of needs, logistically, as well as physical components in the house to tell the story,” said Phil Lewis. 

Now the home boasts guided tours, a strong volunteer program, and the ability to be continually enjoyed by the public.  The success of which, can be credited to Rochelle.

So what is the secret to her success?

“I just haven’t limited myself to a certain position.  Give me whatever and I’ll figure it out,” she shrugs as if this is simply second nature for her.  It probably is. 

She isn’t a one-woman show, by any means.  But her enthusiasm is contagious.  Rochelle’s unwavering commitment to learn and try new things has resulted in an empowered staff, mirroring her example, and enabling the continued success of Oregon City’s parks and recreation services.

“I am really thankful that she has been the person who has been helping me grow,” said Melissa.

Lisa echoed the sentiments. “She is really good at communicating with me and giving me good feedback.  It has been a really collaborative relationship.”

“Rochelle is a prime example of a professional who does the work we do,” said Phil Lewis, proudly.  “I’m very happy to have her on our team and representing Oregon City in the community.”


What has Rochelle been up to since the Grand Opening?

“I got accepted into the Executive Master’s Degree in Public Administration at Portland State University,” Rochelle says.  She started in September. 

“It has helped me see the bigger picture and what we are to our community.  It is empowering.”

You go, Rochelle!

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