To celebrate National Park and Recreation Month, the City of Victoria is spotlighting its Parks & Recreation employees who help make Victoria a great place to live, work and play.
PHOTO: Recreation Services Manager Jaymie Heibel, right, and recreation coordinator Gabby Anglin participate in the annual kayak clinic hosted by Parks & Recreation at Son Valley Ranch in 2019.
At the start of 2020, Recreation Services Manager Jaymie Heibel and her team were eagerly preparing colorful binders filled with flyers, task lists, contact information and other important materials for all of the events they planned to host this year.
“We were so excited,” Heibel said. “This is the first time in more than ten years that we’ve had three recreation coordinators, and we were looking forward to expanding our programs and leagues.”
As the year went on, however, many of those binders were stored away to be used later, when residents can gather safely again.
COVID-19 has been especially disruptive for Heibel, who has also served as interim assistant director of Parks & Recreation since February. Normally, her job duties include coordinating events from the Fourth of July fireworks show to the Lighted Christmas Parade, organizing athletic leagues and managing field rentals for out-of-towners looking to host tournaments.
However, what she enjoys most of all is working at the events she helps to organize.
“It’s great to interact with the league participants and implement everything that we do in the office,” she said. “At the events, we get to see the plan come together.”
Heibel first discovered her affinity for event coordination while she was earning her master’s degree in sports management. She originally planned to coach collegiate softball, but she found Parks & Recreation to be a perfect avenue for her newfound interest while giving her the opportunity to make a difference in her hometown.
Heibel returned to Victoria and joined Parks & Recreation as a recreation coordinator in December 2015. In March 2016, she was promoted to recreation services manager.
Heibel enjoys using her degree on a daily basis and having a positive impact by helping residents stay active. However, the pandemic has increasingly put her team in the difficult position of having to restrict services in the interest of public health.
“We never want to close things down,” Heibel said. “We want people to be active because we recognize how important it is to their physical and mental health. Every time we restrict something, it kills us.”
Victoria’s parks, trails, playgrounds and tennis courts are still open, giving residents plenty of ways to get out of the house while staying safe. Residents should keep their distance from those outside their households and may not gather in groups of more than 10 people.
For more information about Parks & Recreation, call 361-485-3200 or visit the department’s Facebook page.