SPECIAL REPORT: What's new for Warren County Parks and Recreation

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- When you think of Warren County Parks and Recreation, little league games and practices may come to mind. But according to county officials, community members have been asking for more, so 2017 saw a year of great growth for area parks. Now, park leaders are working on making even more additions for 2018.

"2017 was a great year," said director of Warren County Parks and Recreation, Chris Kummer.

"We experienced a lot of league growth. We experienced a lot of volume with activities and programming," he said. But in his own words, the "most exciting" part was building two new gyms -- one at Michael O. Buchanon Park, and another at Ephram White Park.

County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said those gyms have been a long time coming.

"I've had the plans rolled up on my desk for a number of years until we could afford to build them," Buchanon said. "I can't tell you how rewarding it is to me and I know it's rewarding to Chris and his staff to see all the young faces and all the families enjoying those facilities."

"With the community's support, with the community wanting better quality of life activities, over the years we have been able to add features like these new gyms to provide that service," said Kummer.

It's more than just new gyms. WCPR also installed its second annual SoKY Ice Rink in downtown Bowling Green for the 2017-2018 holiday season. According to Kummer, the success from the first year allowed them to do even more this season.

"This year, we were able to get a little bit bigger ice rink that was a little bit wider, a little bit longer. We have about 15 thousand-plus users," he said.

With that continued success of the ice rink, WCPR wanted to do more in the downtown area to bring the community together.

"We were able to put on a New Year's Eve Bash on New Year's Eve. We had about 1,000 people, had a fireworks show at midnight, had skating until 1:00 a.m. It was cold but a lot of people came out despite the cold and had a good time," said Kummer.

Locals may remember it was very cold the night of New Year's Eve. That week, temperatures dropped well below freezing and stayed in the single digits for days. Buchanon said for someone like Kummer, the cold wasn't going to keep him from making sure everyone enjoyed the inaugural bash.

"What Chris has, which is unique to a lot of people, is that he has a love for working with the people," he said.

WCPR also implemented new safety features in 2017 by creating a flag system at Romanza Johnson and Phil Moore Parks.

"Prior to 2017, Emergency Management was kept fairly busy with water related emergencies on Drakes Creek. I believe that the amount of issues on the river this year is at least half, if not more reduced than it has been," Kummer said.

Another addition this past year was the new, county-wide AlertSense program.

Community leaders have been practicing with the system for several months and it launched to the public in early 2018. The app gives people free access to weather and safety alerts, but it can also provide information about the parks.

"We've already used it for our basketball season. We've sent out notifications a couple weeks ago when we had snow and ice that cancelled and delayed programs," said Kummer.

With all the additions in 2017, Kummer said he already has big plans for 2018.

"Several things we're working on which we hope we're able to do if we're allotted the funding is we're looking at building two dog parks, one at Phil Moore Park and Ephram White Park," he said. "We're also in the process of finishing up two outdoor basketball courts."

One of those is planned for Ephram White Park, the other for Phil Moore Park.

"We're also building (with the support of Warren County Emergency Management), two large tornado shelters," Kummer said. "We currently have six already in the system. Those shelters are open to the public any time that there's a tornado watch."

"As long as our population is expanding at the rate that it is now, we're going to have to continue to make new investments in Parks and Recreation," said Buchanon. "I certainly have a good feeling about it and I'm excited about future opportunities."

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