There are few better examples of how County government can make a difference in the lives of its citizens than its parks system. The parks offer open spaces where families can gather, or individuals can go to enjoy a slower pace for a while. For nearly 40 years now, our parks have been at the forefront of this benefit to our community thanks in large part to Parks Director Richard Bales and his staff.
In 1970, a then-18-year-old Bales who had worked some as a part-time stock boy, etc., for a local QuikTrip store close to his home, was hired on as a part-time recreation leader for O’Brien Park. According to Bales, “In those days, the County parks had a lot of land but very few facilities.” A positive attitude, stellar work ethic, and enthusiasm for physical fitness propelled Bales quickly up the ranks of the park system. In 1972, he was hired as a recreation leader at O’Brien, then promoted to activities director in 1975, and in 1976 he was promoted to the parks administrative staff, located in the courthouse. In 1978, Bales earned his degree in health, physical education and recreation from the University of Tulsa, leading to his being promoted to recreation superintendent in 1979. By 1989, Bales was leading the program as its director.
During his tenure, Bales has seen many changes. According to Bales, however, one thing remains constant. “The parks still provide a place where kids can come and learn teamwork, sportsmanship, and citizenship.” As an example, Bales points to the recent success of the revitalized youth baseball program centered in the Watts Complex at Chandler Park. “Back in the early 1980s, it was the home of the Westside Kids Baseball with 55 to 60 teams. Over time, however, that program disappeared. For the last two years, our new program has been a huge success. In fact, the Drillers organization has sponsored us both years and upped their second year donation because they like what we’re doing.”
Bales considers the revitalized youth baseball program just one of several examples where Tulsa County parks help give kids opportunities to get involved with an active lifestyle. He recalls the parks collaborating with the city to help give the area’s high school golf teams a place to practice. “Before we did that, only kids that attended Tulsa Public Schools within Tulsa city limits could use city golf courses, but we broadened the availability of those courses to include all schools public and private within Tulsa County.”
Along those lines and close to his heart, Bales points to examples like Buford Colony Park. Located just northeast of the intersection of West 61st Street South and South 105th West Avenue, Bales explains that “that park has truly made a difference to the neighborhoods which surround it. Being located in a somewhat economically depressed area of the county, it means that much more for those families to have a clean and safe place in which to enjoy time together outside.”
Over the years, Bales maintains that his favorite aspect of his job is serving the people of Tulsa County. Everyone has a need of a place to walk the dog, fly a kite, play with their kids and enjoy nature. Parks make our county a better place to live.
But I would like to add that they do so thanks to the hard work of Richard Bales and his devoted staff.
Tulsa County Commissioner
Article compliments of the Tulsa County News