CEDAR RAPIDS — One of Scott Hock’s first jobs as director of the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department has been developing a new, all-inclusive playground at Daniels Park, 940 Oakland Rd. NE.
Once open, likely next spring, the playground will include a ramped entrance, stand-alone musical instruments, a universally accessible swing/glider, and possibly a wheelchair swing, according to a presentation of the estimated $150,000 project.
“This helps integrate kids,” said Hock, 50, who took the reins July 9. “It tells other kids these kids are no different from you. They also want to have fun, and their parents want to come watch them play. It removes barriers.”
The playground project, which is working its way through the contracting process, is an example of physical inclusion and also an inclusive process Hock hopes to encourage as director. While conceiving the project, 100 or so comments were generated on Facebook about playground design and feature options that reaffirmed the need for accessibility, he said.
“We can do that for a lot of things,” Hock said of engaging the community on projects. “The vision shouldn’t come from the department. It should come from the constituents and council.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for input ahead.
Among the biggest tasks is developing a plan for the municipal golf program, which has been losing money for years although minimized losses in the past year, and deciding on the future of Jones Golf Course, which routinely closes due to flooding and loses the most money.
Also, Hock will help envision greenways along the Cedar River associated with the city’s flood control system, plan a kayak launch in Czech Village, and consider smoking and drinking bans in city parks.
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Hock oversees a staff of 59 employees, a fiscal 2019 budget of $11.6 million, 96 named parks, and programing serving 1.6 million users annually. The department operates four municipal golf courses, Ushers Ferry Historic Village, Old MacDonald’s Farm in Bever Park, Tait Cummins Softball Complex, Tuma Soccer Complex, six swimming pools, 24 pavilions and offers 1,500 programs a year.
Hock was selected from among three candidates after a first round of finalists were passed to replace Sven Leff, who left in July 2017. Hock, who had been working as director of Davenport Parks and Recreation since 2014, said he was enticed by the challenge of running a larger department, the reputation of the department and city leadership, and to be closer to family in Ames and Vinton.
Hock was raised in Manson, near Fort Dodge, graduated from a small high school, and attended Iowa State University where he majored in leisure studies with an emphasis in recreation. Other professional stops included Shenandoah, Kansas City, Ames and Urbandale, and he earned a master’s degree in public administration from Iowa State in 2010.
Early jobs as a lifeguard and coaching youth tennis and baseball had an impact on his career path. He initially considered becoming an English teacher, but some of those early experiences helped steer him toward the parks and recreation field.
“I enjoy giving back and making something better than when I started,” he said. “I enjoy the sense of accomplishment.”
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