If you ask Kim Vogel, Pittsburg Parks and Recreation Department director, how things went with the department during 2013, better sit down, get comfortable and be  prepared to listen.
A lot has happened in the past 12 months and Vogel, department director for the past three years, knows all the details.
“Overall, it’s just been a great year for our department,” Vogel said. “We had 10-plus new programs and didn’t have to drop any old programs.”
Those new programs, she said, included a very successful father-son campout and four Friday “Flick-n-Floats” at the Pittsburg Aquatic Center and a mini mother-daughter spa day.
“We had our first annual Mini Warrior Dash, our first annual spring dance recital for city dance classes and World Tai Chi Day,” Vogel said.
There has also been an emphasis in the recreation area of the department to reach special populations.
“We’ve done a lot of collaborating this year with special populations, including New Hope Services, Mosaic and CLASS Ltd.,” Vogel said. “We have a special population softball league and just had our first special population Christmas dance. This has been fun for us, and very rewarding.”
Recreation Department staff and Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium staff teamed up to do “Stage Fright” at Halloween, turning the auditorium into a spook house as a fundraiser for the Everybody Plays program, a multigenerational playground that will be located at Schlanger Park.
“It was a great success, and we’re already working on ‘Stage Fright 2’,” Vogel said.
Everybody Plays has been in the works since 2007.
“The success of Everybody Plays has been tremendous this year,” Vogel said. “The committee members have done a good job of expressing the need for this project. The swing sets were put in with help from Sunrise Rotary Club and the Pritchett Trust, and we’ve just received a Kansas Health Foundation grant for the playground unit.”
Another major project this year was the renovation of six tennis courts, four at the Four Oaks Complex in Lincoln Park and two at Lakeside Park.
“This was sparked by the closing of the tennis courts adjacent to the Weede Physical Education Building at Pittsburg State University,” Vogel said.
Work was also done at the RV park at Lincoln Park, just off the U.S. Highway 69 Bypass. Pittsburg Beautiful added a shelter house and shower/restroom facility to the site, with assistance from Pittsburg State University construction students.
The big slides at the Pittsburg Aquatic Center were also renovated in time for the center’s opening.
“They had developed some cracks and we had fiberglass issues,” Vogel said. “We shifted some priorities to take care of this.”
It was good that the slides were available for summer fun, but bad that fewer people were able to enjoy them because of the weather.
“This was probably one of the coldest, wettest summers I can recall, which cut down on daily attendance at the Aquatic Center,” Vogel said. “There were some days when the temperature didn’t reach 72 degrees by 1 p.m. so we weren’t even able to open the pool.”
And, she added, while the cooler weather did lure some golfers over to the Four Oaks Golf Course, rain and lightning kept them away.
“We still did not have to use any general funds for the golf course, which is huge,” Vogel said. “We may not have had the numbers we wanted, but we did accomplish our goal of not being subsidized.”
The department, and the city at large, have faced other challenges from the weather, most recently from the ice storm that hit Dec. 21.
“We’re still dealing with the clean-up from that,” Vogel said. “We’ll have the city burn site open every day next week except New Year’s Day for people to bring out trees, branches and sticks.”
She said there was also a month-long clean-up because of the many trees that came down during a storm on May 20. Straight-line winds up to 60- or 70-miles per hour caused extensive tree damage in many parts of Crawford County, and Vogel estimated at the time that 65 to 70 percent of the trees in Schlanger Park suffered storm damage.
Indoor activities aren’t quite as vulnerable to the weather, and Vogel said things have gone well for activities booked at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
“There have been some fantastic shows at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center,” she said. “We’ve had record ticket sales for Pittsburg Community Theatre and the Midwest Regional Ballet. People have really getting out and supporting these productions. Our ticket sales have increased drastically this year.”
There has been a reorganization at the auditorium, with Jason Huffman becoming auditorium manager and Jeff  Wilbert assuming duties as downtown district coordinator.
“Jeff  has done a good job of helping organizations promote events,” Vogel said. “Art Walk is being held every other month now, and we’re encouraging downtown merchants to stay open a little later to catch the crowds who come to Art Walk.”
“Old faithful” events such as the July 4 celebration and Little Balkans Days also went well this year, the director said.
“With help from Walmart, we gave away around 150 trees this year,” Vogel said.
Another new project, literally hot off the printing press, is the 2014 Pittsburg Parks and Recreation calendar.
“It’s our first ever calendar and it lists our department activities so that people can plan ahead,” Vogel said. “Sara Mitchell, recreation superintendent, worked very hard on creating this calendar. You know, we always wish we had more staff, but the staff we have is ambitious, creative and eager. We’re fortunate to have the staff we do to serve our community.”
The community itself also serves, she added, providing numerous volunteers.
“We’ve got a lot of help in our community,” Vogel said. “Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs have adopted parks. These organizations not only say it’s their mission to help the kids, they really step up.”
She added that Pittsburg State University is another wonderful source of volunteers, including those from the health, human performance and recreation department.
“We also have good volunteers from the high school and middle school,” Vogel said. “We’re blessed that we have the buy-in from the community that parks are important and recreation is important.”