Oxford’s parks director retiring after nearly 2 decades

Recreation facilities and activities have increased in the 17 years since Gail Brahier was hired as the city’s Director of Parks and Recreation. She retires at the end of this month, proud of those changes and looking forward to more even though she will only see them as a resident.

The capstone of her years working for the city was development of Community Park between Fairfield and Brookville roads. Brahier said the next major improvement will be the addition of an aquatics center on the same property.

“The park itself, that’s what brought me here. Developing the park was exciting to me,” she said, adding that the park provides something for everyone, with hiking and biking, youth sports and enough space to accommodate large crowds.

“We have hosted three Little League state tournaments,” Brahier said.

Events, both at the park and elsewhere in the city, have changed during her 17 years.

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One example is the city’s Fourth of July parade. The celebration had been held for many years on the grounds of the TRI complex before a parade was added Uptown. Once the Community Park opened, it became the location for the celebration. Some years later, the parade was moved out there, too, changing in scope and size to make it more of an event for children because the road could not be closed for a full-sized parade.

“One thing I always try to do is to improve things. We moved the parade to the Community Park to try it out there, but it did not work so we moved it back into town,” she said. “I’m not afraid to try things.”

She wants to travel some and in a matter of seconds ticks off a long list of Ohio historic and nature sites she likes to visit. She plans on taking a new route in her work life but has no plans. She will take the next few months off and not even think about that, she said, at least until after the June wedding of her daughter.

“I think I’ll get back out there and see what’s on the horizon but I will take a few months to regroup,” she said. “I’m ready for something else.”

In addition to the Fourth of July parades, two other events she remembers fondly from her years as recreation director are Veterans Day celebrations and Memorial Tree programs.

“They both honor people,” she said.

The success she has experienced in the job are a credit to the entire department and the community, she said.

“Local businesses and volunteers have stepped up. You look at Oxford’s facilities and we do a great job and everybody works to try to make it a better place,” she said. “That’s what I enjoyed a lot about working here. People who do not live in small towns like this do not understand. It’s our town.”

Even as she steps down as director, Brahier sees some possible programs her successor could pursue. They were on her mind as future plans, but she would suggest a focus on nature programming and also programming for senior residents.

“That’s the great thing about parks and recreation. You’re never done,” she said.

With the municipal pool showing its age, there has been talk for years about the possibility of building a new pool at the park site. That has expanded into a concept for an aquatics center.

“We have big plans, big dreams,” Brahier said. “The next big thing will be to open the aquatics center by 2018. That will make the Community Park a true community center. People will love it.”

Planners envision a splash area for small children, a lap pool due to the city’s partnership with the Oxford Swim Team, and two water slides.

Brahier came to Oxford from Lake Metroparks in Lake County, Ohio, where she served as department head for recreation for her last 15 months there after working as a supervisor from January 1991 to September 1997. Prior to that, she was a recreation supervisor for the Kentucky Department of Parks.

Now, she owns a home in Oxford and plans to stay for at least the foreseeable future.

“I have no regrets in my career. I had hoped to develop (the aquatics center) before retiring, but I look forward to seeing it and taking my grandson there,” she said.

Brahier’s last day as director will be Jan. 29.

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