I’m very pleased to, at long last, have the pleasure of introducing you to an amazing person, who was kind enough to slow down long enough to tell us a little of what he’s been up to.

First of all, we are blessed to have many outstanding individuals here in Napa County. Today, we’ll be visiting with John Coates, Parks and Recreation Director, one of the best!.

When Napa City Manager, Mike Parness selected John Coates to lead Napa’s Parks and Recreation Services Department on March 2014, he said of John Coates, “I was extremely impressed with his depth of knowledge. We are lucky to have him.”

Coates immediately embarked on several large-scale recreation projects such as developing a master plan for the underdeveloped portion of Kennedy Park, as well as starting construction of the new Skate Park.

I recommend that you take a drive down to Kennedy Park, and notice the well trimmed and cared for trees, the lovely Picnic Pavilions, the amazing Skate Park, and so much more. It’s a park to be proud of, and is still improving. You also might like to check out its website: https://www.naparec.com/parks-master-plan

By the way, you will also see Picnic Pavilions at Fuller Park, Dry Creek Park and Alston Park. What a pleasure to relax in the shade.

General, all around, Parks Improvements consist of new playgrounds at Sutherland, Las Flores, Evens, Fuller, and Playground Fantastico (you really must check out Playground Fantastico. I took my 3-year-old great- granddaughter there recently, along with my daughter, and we all had fun.)

All Sports courts have been resurfaced, 14 in all. Pathways and parking lots have also been resurfaced.

Also, I’m sure that you have noticed how clean and beautiful our Downtown area is and how attractive the hanging flower baskets are, all 300 of them. The antique light posts have been repainted, plus additional landscaping around parking lots and parking garages.

In addition, there will be two downtown restrooms, one on the Cinedome lot, and the other between the Running Store and Downtown Joe’s,

There will also be a complete renovation planned for Dwight Murray Plaza this winter, including a significant public art piece, “Veil of Water.”

There’s more, but let’s take a break and get to know John Coates a little better. Sitting near John, at a meeting or just sitting and discussing ideas, you immediately feel his energy and his enthusiasm. He obviously loves what he’s doing and has exciting plans for far into the future. Another plus that he has, in my view, is his southern charm. Born in Virginia, he can’t hide that southern drawl. I relate, as my family comes from Tennessee, and when I go back to visit, it takes me forever to get back to talking ‘Californian’ when I return…that southern drawl is habit forming!

Alright, let’s get back into more of what John Coates and his great team have been up to.

The Oxbow Commons, which opened in the summer of 2015, as a result of the flood control project is also, in dry weather, the area for many downtown events, such as Earth Day, Bike Fest, Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, Blues Brews and BBQ, and Oxboo Festival (Yes, that’s right, Oxboo).

China Point Overlook. This is Napa’s newest park and historical site at the southwest corner of First Street and Soscol Avenue, overlooking Napa River. Watch the papers for information on the October Dedication Ceremony.

Main Street Boat Dock opened in 2013 for public use. In 2014 a Commercial Developed Use Policy was developed. For the future, several types of commercial activities are planned, including kayak tours, gondola tours, standup paddleboard tours, solar powered boat rentals, and even a water taxi from San Francisco.

A Port of Napa will be established. It will be operated as a public/private partnership by Tideline Marine Company. Non-motorized operations will begin in late summer 2017.

And, finally, last but far from least, let’s talk about the Senior Center, its needs assessment and renovations. There is no doubt in my mind that when the time comes, John Coates will arrange for our seniors to have one of the most up-to-date Senior Centers that you could imaging. We are all excited about the needs of the younger (in mind) seniors of today.

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First, will be a $1 million project to complete short term renovations to modernize existing facilities and expand programming.

There is a $6 million plan for a long term project to continue to expand programs and meet future needs of seniors. (At present this has not been funded.)

John Coates, in addition to the many, many improvements he has made in our parks, has spent a good deal of time hiring new people, energizing all of us to help make our Napa Senior Center all that it can be, and more.

Already it’s much more cheerful to enter the door, be greeted by a friendly volunteer, lots of light, and clear space, many new programs, etc. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the Center, please drop on by, pick up the Fall Recreation Guild and check out all the new classes being offered. Included is a friendly letter from the Director and more news about the Main Street Boat Dock and how Oxbow Commons serves two purposes.

And, don’t forget, if you call a day ahead you can enjoy a very nutritious lunch and maybe make a few new friends.

I’m so glad you have had the opportunity to meet John Coates. He is, indeed, a mover and a shaker, and an extremely nice person.

Enjoy being alive, smell the roses, smile until your face hurts.

Let’s meet again next Sunday.

I always love hearing from you. bettyrrhodes@sbcglobal.net

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