New recreation superintendent hopes to develop new community events for Iowa City

Swim lessons, needs assessment among other goals

IOWA CITY — Iowa City’s new recreation superintendent is only just a week into his new position but already has some lofty goals for growing the city Parks and Recreation Department’s programming.

Brad Barker, who was previously the director of parks and recreation in Vinton, started his new role last Tuesday. Barker said he hopes to add new community events to the department’s programming, among other goals.

“That could be anything from a small one-day event that kind of has a niche audience to something that’s a much grander scale that really brings the community together and everything in between,” Barker said.

Additionally, Barker said he hopes to expand the department’s outreach to underserved populations by conducting a “community needs recreational assessment.” Barker said he has experience completing a similar assessment in Vinton to help make sure parks and recreation is meeting the needs of the community.

More of Barker’s goals include teaching every child in the community how to swim, improving bicycle safety and expand STEAM education, or science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“You look at the differences between communities that have strong parks and recreation departments, and Iowa City is definitely in that category, and you look at cities and towns that do not have a strong parks and recreation department and you can really have a sense of the difference in quality of life that those people lead,” Barker said. “It makes for a much better living environment.

Working in parks and recreation, Barker said his role tends to change from day to day, but right now he’s spending much of his time in meet-and-greets and learning about the department and everyone’s responsibilities.


Barker has a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Iowa State University and a master’s in parks and recreation management from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He replaced Chad Dyson, who left Iowa City earlier this year to take over the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department.

While Vinton is a town of just 5,500 people, Barker said the town had a fairly “robust” parks system, which included a roller skating rink. swimming pool and recreation center that he has experience with.

“I had experience in a lot of different areas and this would be an opportunity for me to really expand beyond that into a larger community, and really make a difference in the recreation opportunities available to a population that’s a bit larger and more diverse than Vinton,” Barker said.

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